The Monday after Heather Heyer was killed while protesting white supremacism in Charlottesville, an Asian-American family in San Francisco received a hate letter about the Black Lives Matter sign that’s been hanging in their window since 2015. Debbie Lee and her daughter, Celi Tamayo-Lee, told KRON-4, a Bay Area news station, that this wasn’t the first letter they received about their sign, either. Last July, an anonymous sender mailed the Tamayo-Lee family a letter that read, “BLUE LIVES MATTER! Get rid of your sign, or WE will.” The mother and daughter decided to just brush that note off and move on. Unfortunately, though, this wasn’t really an option when the Tamayo-Lee family received their second letter. The note, which contains racial slurs and threats of violence, is currently being investigated as a hate crime.
Because of their resilience in the face of these threats, Lee and her daughter were both honored with a “Certificate of Honor” at the Park Station Police District’s community meeting on Sept. 18. Norman Yee, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, presented the Tamayo-Lee family with their certificate. “The citizens of SF and the Board of Supervisors extend this accommodation to the Tamayo-Lee family for inspiring others to carry the message of inclusiveness and community empowerment,” Yee said during the ceremony. And in turn, Lee and her daughter printed and passed out signs for their neighbors to post in their windows. Those signs read, “Standing With My Neighbors Against Hate,” and they’re now omnipresent in the Tamayo-Lee family’s neighborhood.
The Tamayo-Lee family reportedly did consider taking their Black Lives Matter sign down after the second letter arrived, but the idea didn’t stick. In fact, Tamayo-Lee told KRON4 all this harassment has only strengthened her resolve to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Tamayo-Lee said in a video shot by KRON4, “If anything, we have to keep the sign up. Because then that would mean these people are getting exactly what they want.” Tamayo-Lee added, “The first thought was definitely to get more signs up around the neighborhood.”
Tamayo-Lee and her mother have said they were simultaneously surprised, yet sadly not surprised, to receive hate mail focusing on their support of Black Lives Matter. On the one hand, the Tamayo-Lee’s neighborhood is one of San Francisco’s more conservative zones. More than 10 percent of the folks living in District 1 identify as Republicans, the second highest concentration of Republicans in San Francisco, according to Mission Local, and the Republican party doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Still, it’s San Francisco we’re talking about here. “For me, there is an element of surprise that this happened to us, and also of non-surprise,” Tamayo-Lee reportedly said. “The political moment we are in and people feeling more empowered with the President — with the one we have — to say things that are averse to Black Lives Matter.” Lee added, “We really think that it’s not a coincidence that it was postmarked after Charlottesville.”
The number of reported hate crimes spiked across the U.S. in 2016 — an unfortunate statistic that many have linked to the presidential campaign and election of Donald Trump. Even in places like Los Angeles, with a similarly liberal reputation to San Francisco, the surge of hate crimes seen in 2016 has continued well into 2017.
Donald Trump may flip-flop on whether or not Americans should condemn white supremacy, but none of us can afford to be indifferent to injustice anywhere. So here are ways that you can support the Black Lives Matter movement, and here’s to the Tamayo-Lee family for leading by example.