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A Dispute Over a Black Lives Matter Sign in Lake Oswego Went Viral This Week. Bruce Poinsette Isn’t Surprised.

The affluent Portland suburb has a long history of racist incidents, which prompted Poinsette’s mother to co-found the community action group Respond to Racism in 2017.

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

Whenever Lake Oswego trends on Twitter, chances are it's not for anything good.

And so it was this week. On Tuesday, a resident of the affluent Portland suburb posted a letter that her family, which is East Indian, received in response to a sign placed in the window of their home supporting racial justice.

The sign—which read "Silence Supports Police Violence"—apparently perturbed some neighbors, who wrote an anonymous letter asking for it to be taken down and claiming, among other things, that the display was driving down property values on the street.

"We believe you've made your point," reads the letter, which was also posted on Twitter. "As tensions rise in our city, home is the safe and quiet place we wanted to return to after work. We want to come home to a beautiful street where neighbors care and support one another."

The tweet went viral in the Portland area, amassing 11,900 retweets so far, and prompted Lake Oswego City Manager Martha Bennett to issue a tepid statement affirming the family's right to display the sign.

While the phenomenon of leaving passive-aggressive notes in response to signs supporting the Black Lives Matter movement is not limited to Portland's wealthy southwest suburb, Lake Oswego has a long history of racist incidents.

That why, in 2017, two residents formed Respond to Racism, a community group dedicated to combating the city's intolerant reputation.

In a conversation with WW's Arts & Culture editor, Bruce Poinsette—a volunteer with the group and son of co-founder Willie Poinsette—discusses how the organization responded to this most recent exchange, what was happening in Lake Oswego while the rest of the world was watching Portland, and why his hometown reminds him of the movie Get Out.

See more Distant Voices interviews here.