Tenino, Washington: When Vandals Painted Racist Graffiti On A Black Family’s Home, Neighbors Cleaned It Up

Neighbors in the town of Tenino, Washington came together to clean up racist graffiti left behind on a black family’s home and vehicles while the family was away camping, in a show of neighborly love and support that left the homeowner in tears, KOMO (Seattle) is reporting.

Marvin Phillips and his family are one of the few black families — if not the only black family — in Tenino, a town of about 1,700 people some 70 miles from Seattle. Last weekend, Phillips took his family on a camping trip to the nearby mountains. While he was gone, one or more vandals showed up at his property.

Police estimate that the vandals struck in the wee hours of Friday morning. They painted racist graffiti, including the letters “KKK” and the N-word, on Phillips’ truck and three sides of his house.

Neighbor Heidi Russel tells KTVB (Boise) that there will be none of that in her community.

“It made me want to cry when I saw it. It was terrible.”

But feeling sorry for a crime victim is one thing; doing something about it is another. And Russel decided to do something about it. She rallied up her neighbors, and they started scrubbing.

“Our biggest concern was getting this done before the family came home because they have small children and we didn’t want them to see their truck or their home vandalized.”

Soon other neighbors began turning up to help, including firefighter Mike Vanderhoof.

“It’s too cruddy of a world to have this kind of stuff happen in your own community and not do something about it. Main thing is we wanted to make sure the family didn’t see this. Nobody see this kind of junk in their life. Nobody needs that kind of hate speech.”

Another neighbor who turned up to help was Tenino’s one on-duty cop that was working that day, Officer Wilson.

“I’m here to protect and serve. It aggravates me when this happens. I’m here to make it right.”

Together, the neighbors scrubbed, painted, scrubbed, and painted some more, until there was virtually no sign of the vandalism.

As it turns out, Marvin Phillips returned home with his family just as the neighbors were finishing their cleanup effort.

A grateful Phillips thanked his neighbors for sparing his kids from having to see the hateful messages.

“I was more concerned about them. And I didn’t know what the town had did until today.”

Neighbor Misty Dell says that coming together to scrub out racism from a beloved neighbor’s home is just the type of thing that neighbors in close-knit, small towns do for each other.

“This is a town. We’re a family. And to know that this could happen to somebody here is just devastating. They don’t deserve it.”

This is not the first time that a northwestern city has fought back against hate in their community. Back in the early 1990s, the city of Billings, Montana, collectively came to the defense of a Jewish family that was victimized by hate.

The Schnitzer family had put up a Menorah in their son Isaac’s bedroom, according to Religious Tolerance, and a vandal threw a brick through it. Neighbor Margaret McDonald, a Christian, was outraged. She began making phone calls, and soon, hundreds of families across the city — Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and non-religious alike — all began displaying Menorahs in their windows. The event would go on to inspire a children’s book.

Back in Tenino, authorities are taking the vandalism seriously and are treating it as a hate crime. As of this writing, they have no suspects, but the investigation is ongoing.

[Image via Shutterstock/varujc]