A Youngstown, Ohio woman says she is in fear for her life after she moved her business into a new neighborhood where she has been threatened and harassed — and her truck was burned by vandals.
The New York Daily News reported that 40-year-old Nicole Rhodes has been targeted because she is a black woman opening a business in a mostly-white neighborhood.
The harassment began about three weeks ago with a note taped to the door of Rhodes’ beauty school and salon, which she is moving into an old school building on Mt. Vernon Avenue that her family has owned for three years.
“We don’t want you here black b—-,” the note said. “Don’t get burnt up in there.”
Then on Monday, she came outside to find her 2006 Ford pickup ablaze.
You have to understand that we're fighting to survive in a country where being black itself is enough to incite dangerous and sometimes deadly violence against us. It's not that I don't care about drones or civil liberties or Gitmo detainees or Income inequality, I do. I recognize those are important issues.
But racism in this country directly interferes with my ability to address those issues. When a police officer can summarily execute someone for being black, my priorities as a black man have to start with this issue, self-preservation, above everything else.
“This can’t be real. This just can’t be real,” Rhodes said in an interview with the Daily News on Wednesday. “It just cannot be this serious. Black skin just can’t be this serious. Black skin just can’t make you go destroying property.”
Fire investigators concluded that the blaze was deliberately set and are investigating the threats and fire as hate crimes.
Youngstown Fire Department Investigator Alvin Ware told WKBN-27, “There’s something going on.”
Rhodes said she has put up 16 surveillance cameras around the property and will not be intimidated into opening her business somewhere else.
And let's be honest here, black history is replete with examples of programs for correcting economic injustice independent of addressing racism, where racism in applying these crept in and these programs were used as a bludgeon against us to keep us down. Economic injustice and racism are deeply related, but they are separate issues. I'm seeing a lot of talk about how we need to fix economic injustice. I'm not seeing candidates tell me "we're going to work on racism."
So as long as people are willing to commit arson against a black woman in 2015 for the crime of being a black woman, everything else has to take a back seat, folks. You can accuse Black Lives Matter of being a "single issue" group all you want to, but the reality is that if you're dead, you can't do much of anything useful.
Self-preservation wins. It has to. But for the grace of God I am not a hashtag.