TENINO, Wash. — Marvin Phillips, his wife and five of his children piled into their motor home for a family vacation last week. In their absence, their house and truck were painted with racial slurs.
Neighbors and friends of the Tenino, Washington, family heard about the racist graffiti and on Saturday began the monumental task of cleaning it up, all while the Phillipses were away.
Community member Heidi Russell said, “He’s got small kids and they couldn’t even enjoy their vacation. I couldn’t let this happen. If I have to be out there by myself, I’ll do it.” So she posted an all-call on Facebook.
“It’s too cruddy of a world to have this kind of stuff happen in your own community and not do something about it,” Mike Vanderhoof, who works for the county fire district, told CNN affiliate KOMO. “Main thing is we wanted to make sure the family didn’t see this. Nobody [should] see this kind of junk in their life. Nobody needs that kind of hate speech.”
Strangers, rival football teams, police and firefighters all showed up.
The red graffiti sprawled across the house and car was scrubbed off and the house was repainted by the time the Phillipses got home on Saturday.
Phillips, who is black, had heard from the police and some friends about the situation unfolding back home. His family decided to cut their vacation short.
About 50 members of his community had filled the end of his usually quiet street, ready to welcome them.
Fighting back tears, Phillips said what touched him the most was a photo he saw of the cleanup. He said his friend was “holding her 2-year-old daughter and she was holding a paintbrush painting out the n-word.”
“I’m grateful it happened, because my kids continue to act like we just had a big greeting party when we came home. When they go to practice today, it’s the same old thing as it was the last day they went,” said Phillips.
“But what I think mainly, even though we want to ignore it, even though it happens, there is still more love out here than hate.”