West Linn woman targeted with vulgar, racist graffiti
In her 25 years living in West Linn, Kiki Carlstrom has dealt with racism on a regular basis. Until a couple of weeks ago, most of the prejudice she faced was subtle — mostly microaggressions.
On Aug. 19, Carlstrom encountered the kind of vile, targeted racism that made her feel unsafe in her own home. Carlstrom's landlord and neighbor found the words "white n----r eats ass every day, b---- f----r" scrawled across his truck.
When the landlord told Carlstrom and her husband about the vandalism, the specificity of the words — Carlstrom is Black and her husband is white — along with the fact they were written on a truck right outside their house, made Carlstrom feel like they were being watched.
After going to her parents for comfort that morning, Carlstrom began to investigate the crime for herself.
She went to two nearby businesses to ask if they had cameras that might have captured the vandal. At both, she was dismayed to find employees dismissive of her situation. They seemed casual about it, she said, as if finding that kind of vulgar writing outside your home was no big deal.
But one of the businesses, a bank, had a camera positioned to see Carlstrom's landlord's truck.
Later that afternoon, Carlstrom went to the police station.
Carlstrom said the officer she talked to was respectful and seemed well-intentioned.
"But it did not really seem that important to him," she said. "It wasn't acknowledged that this was extremely problematic, racist and it made me feel unsafe."
According to the case report from the West Linn Police Department, the officer contacted the bank employee Carlstrom had talked to. The bank employee told the officer the security camera did not capture anyone near the truck the night of the incident.
The next day, the officer contacted Carlstrom and her husband with information on how to file the incident as a hate crime if they wanted to.
"It feels like that shouldn't really be my job," Carlstrom said.
The "no" box is checked in the "suspected hate crime" section of the police report.
Other than that, she said, the officer did not follow up with her until a week later.
Frustrated, and wanting to do something more about the incident, Carlstrom contacted City Councilor Jules Walters and Council President Richard Sakelik.
Carlstrom said she had a phone conversation with Walters, in which the councilor was compassionate but did not offer a lot of help other than to give contact information for the West Linn Tidings and The Oregonian.
Sakelik helped Carlstrom get in touch with Michael Fesser, a Black Portland man who was targeted by the West Linn Police Department in 2017 in an illegal and racially motivated arrest.
After hearing Carlstrom's story, Fesser, along with other members of the group Building Bridges, organized a gathering for Black West Linn residents to talk about their experiences with racism.
Following the Aug. 26 gathering at which Carlstrom and others shared their stories, Fesser went to WLPD to talk with Acting Police Chief Peter Mahuna about why more wasn't being done to help Carlstrom.
That evening, Mahuna called Carlstrom.
"He (Mahuna) was doing all the compassionate things that the other guy did not," Carlstrom said. "And then shortly after that, I received a call from the officer I filed my report with and he just told me he was going to contact the bank, go over there and make sure he sees it (the footage) with his own eyes. He was definitely asked to try a little harder. I can tell."
The recommended action listed in the police report was to suspend the investigation, though Mahuna said WLPD had sent a subpoena to the bank's security company to get access to the footage. WLPD hasn't received the footage yet, according to Mahuna.
Since the incident, Carlstrom said she has been angry because she doesn't feel safe at home anymore unless her husband is home.
She also said she's frustrated with not only the crime, but how dismissive some people were when she told them about it. She said her landlord told her it likely had nothing to do with race.
"I definitely felt extremely emotional, extremely unknown and misunderstood. I go through stuff like this constantly, but on a microscale. There's a level of feeling, that sense of racism all the time, but when it really hits you in the face, it's really intense," Carlstrom said. "And then the process of having other white people who don't understand racism want to gaslight you and make you feel like 'oh, the n-word is written on that car but it has nothing to do with you. It has nothing to do with race. You should really just chill out, move on. No one is watching you.' That sort of thing pissed me off. I was really filled with rage that day from all of that."
Carlstrom said there are a couple of Black women teaching in her graduate school program that she felt comfortable enough with to go to and talk about the incident.
But Carlstrom noted not everyone has someone like this who can truly understand and empathize.
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