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Epithets painted on mixed-race family car

April 8, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Vandals have targeted a Los Alamitos neighborhood, painting racist markings on a young mother's car. Neighbors say this is not the first time something like this has happened. This comes as a shock to the victim and most people that live in this quiet safe corner of northwest Orange County. A woman with three kids at home on her way to work Wednesday morning confronted something that no one should have to deal with.

Teri Barber is a registered home health nurse who's lived in Los Alamitos for nine years. She's white in a town that's mostly Caucasian. So you can imagine the shock Wednesday morning when she discovered swastikas and racist words spray-painted all over her car.

"Kind of scary, you know?" said Barber. "I didn't hear anything. I asked my neighbor, who actually parks next to me, and he said he did hear something about 2 or 3 in the morning."

Barber figures it has something to do with her kids, who are of mixed race. Her husband from whom she is separated is African American. Two years ago she found similar epithets scrawled on the sidewalk in chalk and called police. As time passed she thought the perpetrators had found something better to do, but apparently not.

"They definitely know that that's my car," said Barber. "There's obviously -- you can't see my car from the street, so they have to know that that's my car and who my children are, because there's no other black people that live in this building."

Los Alamitos police are investigating the attack as a hate crime, but say they have no witnesses and no suspects.

"We're certainly going to do our best to find out who did this," said Captain Bruce McAlpine, Los Alamitos Police Department. "I would like to reiterate that our city is very safe. We do not have high instance of this nature and this really is a shock to us all."

Residents in Barber's neighborhood say the atmosphere is not as cordial as police like to portray. Sean Washington says he's found several instances of racist graffiti written in chalk on area sidewalks.

"We've seen things written on the ground before with the 'N' word," said neighbor Sean Washington. "Just, if people get angry or say something instead of talking to someone about their character, it's always -- the race thing will come out. And it's not -- if you're mad at someone it should be on what they did on their actions, and not the color of their skin."

Wednesday Barber's son was back playing basketball with his friends, but he, like his mother, wonders what could be next.

"I was shocked, actually, because this is a nice area and I wouldn't expect something like this happening here," said Devin Monroe, Barber's son.

Teri Barber is angry enough that she's thinking about leaving the car right where it is on the street to remind everyone who passes by that American society has made progress, but not as much as we'd like to believe.


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