Swastika in north Minneapolis is Minnesota's latest post-election hate

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North Minneapolis became the latest Twin Cities site of a hateful symbol.

Samantha Crossland slept badly Sunday night. 

Nightmares. 

At one point in the night, she snapped awake with a start when she thought she heard a noise. After hours as a "panicked sleeper," Crossland readied for work and headed for her studio, where she works as an independent fashion designer.

Crossland had barely driven away from her north Minneapolis house when she saw it: a bright red swastika, spraypainted on a garage down a neighboring alley. Crossland stopped her car, took a photo, and drove off. None of her interns were in on Monday, so she worked solo that day in the studio, alone with her materials and her thoughts.

"I was scared," she said.

Crossland has lived in Minneapolis since 1999, and on the city's North Side since 2002. Her neighborhood, just off the Crystal Lake Cemetery, is overwhelmingly populated by black and Hmong families.This Nazi symbol was aimed at them.

"It was frustrating," she says. "It made me think that a lot of us in my neighborhood don’t all talk to each other. We're not standoffish, or mean. We just kind of keep to ourselves. This made me want to reach out, and know more people there than just the neighbors right next to me."

The swastika reminded Crossland, who is of mixed race, of her childhood growing up in Hastings, where she and the handful of other non-white students were sometimes targets of racism. In Minneapolis, it's been a long time. Once, when she was walking downtown with a former boyfriend who was white, a couple old guys made cracks about the Civil War.

That was years ago. Crossland and her husband, who is also white, have lived in relative peace for a long time. 

"It hasn't been that overt for so long that I was caught off guard by [the swastika]," she says. "But then, not really, because I had my guard up in light of things that have been happening since the election."

Just a few days before, a mixed-race friend of Crossland's was walking to her car when a man driving by rolled down his window, yelling, "You're not going to be welcome here soon!"

These anecdotal incidents are adding up. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Minnesota had 34 reports of "hate incidents" in the 10 days after the presidential election. That's easily the most in the Midwest, more than the 25 incidents in Illinois, which has double Minnesota's population. 

Notable incidents in the Twin Cities included black students targeted in Maple Grove the morning after the election; a couple days later a swastika showed up on a St. Paul running path.

The Nazi sign Crossland spotted was of particularly bad design. A friend of hers, Donna Machen, felt "helpless" when she saw the graffiti, and tried turning the sloppy swastika into a funny meme. 

 

Crossland liked the joke -- "if you don't laugh, you cry," she says -- but admits she feels no safer knowing the haters are even ignorant of their own hateful culture.

"Some people are saying, 'I can’t believe they didn't even get it right,'" Crossland says. "But this person is so hung up on symbol of hate they had to do it anyway. If anything, I think uneducated hatred is even more dangerous."

Crossland drove back by the same house -- which she has since learned is abandoned -- early Tuesday and found it was already gone. The symbol had been scrubbed away earlier that morning by Carin Mrotz, deputy director at Jewish Community Action, and Wintana Melekin, political engagement director at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change. 

Mrotz added that she'd filed reports about the swastika with both the SPLC and the City of Minneapolis. 

Crossland hopes its memory might inspire a more unified community in the face of evil.

"The best way to move past something scary," she says, "is to kind of just build your own village."


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