There's a racist flag in my neighbourhood
August 19, 2017 11:18 PM   Subscribe

It's on their front door in a very publically visible area. It looks like this.

- this is in low-income high-density government housing. The complex has 120 units.
- the symbol is esoteric enough that most people will not understand it's meaning
- it's visible to every tenant in the complex

Things I can do:

- make a complaint to the managers of the building
- talk to high profile residents in that community I'm familiar with
- an anonymous noticeboard pinup showing the flag used in context alongside swastikas and other racist symbolism

Things I won't do:

- confront the tenant personally
- tip off the cops
- do nothing

Full context, this is in Brisbane, Australia. Nobody here has guns. The racism we have is mainly directed at muslims and aboriginals. I am second generation Swedish-Australian and physically imposing.
posted by adept256 to Human Relations (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do the things you're willing to do.
posted by lazuli at 11:20 PM on August 19, 2017 [14 favorites]

Contact your local antifa.
posted by ipsative at 11:48 PM on August 19, 2017 [17 favorites]

Do the things that you list that you're willing to do.

The cops will not care about this, mainly because being a dumbarse racist isn't illegal.

As a fellow Australian who happens to be brown, thanks for standing up against this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:18 AM on August 20, 2017 [29 favorites]

Anonymous pin up won't do anything, the people displaying it want it to be understood.

Can you tear it down?

If not then anonymously contact the managment.
posted by jenjen23 at 2:50 AM on August 20, 2017

Brisbane resident here. Looks like the Council can't help with this and the police are unlikely to care as mentioned. If you haven't already a call to Council and one to Police link might clarify that this is a matter for the building management.

I've lived in apartment complexes and often the outward facing side of the door is considered shared space and there is likely to be a body corporate by-laws, regulation or something prohibiting offensive signs etc.

It could also contravene fire safety regulations. I would definitely complain to management.
posted by UnoDosTresEsto at 3:00 AM on August 20, 2017 [11 favorites]

One idea: get together with others, especially near neighbors of this place, and immediately put up a large number of symbols of tolerance.

The organizing with your neighbors is helpful practically and symbolically (but especially practically).
posted by amtho at 4:01 AM on August 20, 2017 [18 favorites]

Seconding to put the word out among your local radical left organisations.
posted by Ted Maul at 4:06 AM on August 20, 2017

Cut it down.
posted by metasarah at 5:36 AM on August 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Don't forget that providing support to the people that this flag threatens is the most important thing.

You could start by trying to find some people to support you in whatever you do. Maintaining your own anonymity because they frighten you is fine. Try your local liberal church for a support group if there is one. If you have no support but have any kind of a budget, quarter page flyers tucked into every mailbox in the building except the Nazi one, assuring the people who might be non-lily white, gay, disabled, aboriginal etc. that they are loved, needed and that the people of the neighbourhood have their back, plus a few 8 x 11 b & w posters can be done quite cheaply, if it is legal to put them up. If you have more support go around and ask the local churches if they will put up a anti Nazi message on their church sign board along the line of "God loves people of every colour"

Don't forget that one of the most effective means of squelching visible Nazi organization is by using it as a fundraiser. Get people to collect pledges. For every Nazi symbol that can be located on display they will donate x number of dollars to the local cause most antithetical to the white supremacists. It the Nazis hold a rally, or even a closed door meeting at the public library, the donations get based on the number of attendees. This means your group gets to celebrate when a fourth Nazi flag goes up because your donations just jumped from $75 to $100! More money to fund the anti-Nazi messages of sympathy to local people of colour who are feeling insecure. Pretty soon the Nazi's realise that their growth is funding your exponential growth and start feeling sick about growing...

Marginalizing the people who put up the flag is debatable; many people feel that they should be driven into more isolation so they don't find an echo chamber to magnify them, but other people feel that if possible reaching out to them so that they end up feeling sheepishly that this was something they did as an overreaction during a stressed period of their life is a better strategy. Your long term strategy is to make it possible for their children grow up able to be much less racist.

If you can find out who they are you will know what type of strategies are likely to be most effective. For example the person who lives there may be one lone male who is isolated and educated, on the internet and has a history of social maladjustment dating back from junior high school. Or it might be a family with working class roots, many social connections, not much media exposure, and a habit of weekend drinking and complaining about the Other while they drink. Isolating either household from Nazi echo chambers would take a completely different route. In the one case he might never go out and might never see the neighbourhood dotted with antifa support, and it would be effective in comforting any neighbours who felt threatened and building community. In the other case it might mobilize the families drinking buddies and cover the neighbourhood with lopsided drunk spray-painted swastikas some Saturday night.

A weekly drop by of three kindly white church ladies at the door with a home made cream cake at the door, "We're sorry you feel that way; We're praying for you," is enough to make the most hardened Nazi stutter a bit. Don't engage in debate. Remember a Nazi is often a young man who suffered a traumatic brain injury and now has an uncontrolled aggression problem as a result. Seething hatred keeps coming into his thoughts whether he wants them to or not and he can't reason with them himself or turn them off. They are his reality. As a result his arguments should be treated like an overtired and hungry two year old screaming, "I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!" You don't reason with him. You don't let him hit his baby sister. And you don't let him learn that this is a good way to get privileges like staying up after bedtime either. Yep, you are still part of our community. You are still valuable. But this is not allowed.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:50 AM on August 20, 2017 [19 favorites]

Your list of things you can do is good, I would do those things. It's not a popular thing to say, but I'll say it: cutting down the flag or providing his address to others in the hope of vandalism is a bad idea.
posted by machinecraig at 6:52 AM on August 20, 2017 [15 favorites]

Your list of things you can do is good, I would do those things. It's not a popular thing to say, but I'll say it: cutting down the flag or providing his address to others in the hope of vandalism is a bad idea.
posted by machinecraig

I agree because if they are spoiling for a fight this encourages them, and they probably will talk to other Nazis and it will fuel their outrage. Best case scenario is if you could get 120 white people as similar to them as possible - same social class accent etc. over the next week to ask them as kindly and and sympathetically as possible, to please take the flag down. No confrontation, just "Eh, mate, take it down."
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:57 AM on August 20, 2017 [10 favorites]

Talk to those residents. Ask them what their banner signifies. Then, let them know your feelings. If you disagree, remember that they have rights, too.
posted by Carol Anne at 7:28 AM on August 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

+1 on "do not cut down"
posted by Jacen at 7:34 AM on August 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

Independent of anything else:

Put up flags of acceptance and inclusion and diversity on your door. Maybe a rainbow flag, maybe a peace symbol, maybe a safety pin thing, maybe the anti-nazi thing going around, etc.

One way you always have available to counter nasty signaling is to signal positive/good stuff yourself.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:58 AM on August 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

Every body corporate I've dealt with has rules against the slightest things like having drying laundry visible from a shared space. Surely there's one governing "decorations" of a door facing a shared hallway that will nip this right in the bud?
posted by olinerd at 8:06 AM on August 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

Of all the ideas you mentioned, I think talking to neighbors and putting up a note will be the most helpful. This kind of symbol is intended to be like a secret handshake, something only fellow fascists recognize. Deny them that power.

I also like the suggestions of putting up your own symbol of acceptance. As a gay man I've been greatly heartened when I see a rainbow flag in a place that otherwise seems gay-hostile. Not sure what that would be in this context. The Antifa three arrows is the most analogous counter but I think it would be interpreted as looking for a fight. A rainbow flag would be fine but maybe not specifically on target. I see a lot of Everyone is Welcome Here posters in California for this purpose.

Thank you for doing something.
posted by Nelson at 8:28 AM on August 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

perhaps I am a bad person, but damn I would be sorely tempted to quietly spray it with something really stinky. I mean, that would also suck for anyone else that has to use the hallway, so maybe go with something that is only stinky when you are very close to it? Axe body spray?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:44 AM on August 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would say it serves as a useful warning sign to avoid the people in that flat because they are racist assholes.
posted by w0mbat at 11:33 AM on August 20, 2017

an anonymous noticeboard pinup showing the flag used in context alongside swastikas and other racist symbolism

If I saw that, I might think it was put up by the Nazis, just to make their point clear.
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:05 PM on August 20, 2017

A flyer explaining what the symbol is, distributed widely on notice boards.

I'm very sorry that when a neighbor put a Nazi flag ion his window, I didn't spray paint the window. The person was mentally ill and volatile, and I honestly think assholes respond to being told No. So I recommend a can of spray paint to turn that symbol into a peace sign.
posted by theora55 at 5:03 PM on August 20, 2017

Research time!

QLD public housing tenants sign a State Tenancy Agreement. This requires tenants to comply with the Fair expectations of behaviour policy.

See also this page, which refers to 'disruptive behaviour' being unacceptable including "[s]erious behaviours—these are activities that intentionally or recklessly disturb neighbours, or sould reasonably cause concern for the safety or security of a tenant, household member, neighbour or their property, or damage to the public housing property. For example, harassing neighbours, intentional disturbances including using aggressive or obscene language, or damaging departmental property" .

This is pretty vague, but there is an argument that displaying Nazi flags (and thereby implying that you would like to murder your neighbours) is a breach of that policy (ie, failing to 'consider your neighbours' or 'not interfere with the reasonable peace, comfort and privacy of your neighbours'). I would suggest lodging a complaint on this basis. This page talks about how to do that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:30 PM on August 20, 2017 [16 favorites]

I really don't suggest destroying the flag, painting it, stink bombing it or any of that. Yet. All of that is likely unlawful.

Take the high road first. Exhaust the lawful options. Then reassess.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:32 PM on August 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

+1 to not committing any crimes (such as vandalism), or contacting local leftist extremist groups (which could put you in legal jeopardy if they do something stupid, as extremist groups are wont to do). The option of pursuing this with their landlord is the most promising to get the sign taken down.
posted by deadweightloss at 5:47 PM on August 20, 2017

You should give them the benefit of the doubt that it's a stupid mistake/a bet/ignorance/a silly teenager/mental impairment etc and so knock on their door with your 'physically imposing" presence and ask them what the sign means to them because you're simply 'curious'. Decide tactics after that.
posted by peacay at 11:02 PM on August 20, 2017

Thank you for the research His Thoughts Were Red thoughts. I've passed the information onto some of the tenants I know and they will make a joint complaint. It's best that it comes from fellow tenants on the property. There will be no flaming bags of crap or antifa. I stayed in public housing when I was a student and the government does everything by the book. Totally different than the private market, there's no profit motive.

No one recognized the symbol at all until I showed them some youtube clips. It was unanimous that it had to go.

I was just there a moment ago, and I noticed that in the courtyard there some aboriginal style dot paintings made by the residents posted. Then you turn around and see that stupid flag. What a contrast. No more hiding in plain sight with this cowardly cryptofascist bullshit!

I award HTWRT the Boxing Kangaroo Stamp of Nazi-Punching. Congratulations!
posted by adept256 at 11:21 PM on August 20, 2017 [25 favorites]

That's me, defeating Nazis with Google-fu and a working knowledge of government agency risk management models.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:56 AM on August 21, 2017 [33 favorites]

Just in case anyone doesn't know why this is/can be a racist symbol (I didn't) here's the ADL on Celtic crosses
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:00 PM on August 28, 2017

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