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Mother of biracial child stunned, shaken by hate graffiti on front door

Courtesy of Donna Pfarr
“I think it’s somebody in the building, which breaks my heart,” said Donna Pfarr, with daughter Indigo.

Donna Pfarr was the victim of a hate crime last weekend, but perhaps the most newsworthy part of her story is how she responded: “with love, with silence, with forgiveness.”

But first there was confusion. Pfarr awoke Sunday morning to the sound of Robbinsdale police at her apartment door. A neighbor had alerted cops to graffiti that had been spray-painted across the 38-year-old single mother’s front door that read, “Nigga Lover Bitch,” which left Pfarr scared, discouraged, and worried about both her safety and that of her 12-year-old daughter, Indigo, who was at a sleepover with a friend at the time.

“I think it’s somebody in the building, which breaks my heart,” said Pfarr, who moved to Hubbard Avenue N. in Robbinsdale from South Minneapolis five years ago. “I’ve always felt safe here. There’s been a considerable amount of turnover over the past couple years. There’s probably eight new tenants, and it’s always been a very culturally diverse building.

“It’s a security building. It happened somewhere between 2 and 5 in the morning. There’s no way anyone in my building would have buzzed anyone in at that time of night. It happened in the building, from somebody who actually lives here, and that saddens me.”

The Robbinsdale police asked Pfarr, who works as a medical secretary at the Minneapolis Veterans Medical Center, if someone has an ax to grind with her. 

“Literally I’m the oldest 38-year-old I know,” said Pfarr. “I go to work, I come home, and I raise my child. I don’t go out, I don’t party, I don’t drink. So the question the police asked was, ‘Who did you upset so much to make them do this?’ And I thought, ‘I don’t have enough of a life to upset someone.’ I work, and I come home, and I go to bed at 9 o’clock on a Friday. I’m so boring, it’s not even funny.

“I can’t think of anyone who would hate me enough to want to hurt my child. My daughter is biracial; her father lives in Duluth. I sat Indigo down and told her what happened, and the only words out of her mouth were, ‘Am I in danger?’ To hear that coming from your daughter is heartbreaking. As a single mother, I’ve worked very hard to build her a safe home, and a place to feel secure, and now I feel like this one violation has diminished everything that I’ve done to help make her feel safe.”

Unusual vandalism for Robbinsdale

The vandal also tagged Pfarr’s back door and mailbox, though the building has no security cameras to help police in their investigation. According to hate crime rate statistics, Robbinsdale is well below the Minnesota and national average.

“I’ve been heavily involved with Robbinsdale for 25 years and I’m starting my eighth year on the City Council and I’ve never had a complaint or concern regarding a hate crime,” said Robbinsdale’s Third Ward representative George Selman. “We just don’t hear a lot of that. We don’t have a lot of racial tension or anything like that.”

Courtesy of Donna Pfarr
A neighbor had alerted cops to graffiti that had been spray-painted across the 38-year-old single mother’s front door.

“I’ve been with the department for 21 years, and I can only recount a handful of incidents that qualify as what is technically known as – I know we use the term ‘hate crime’ – but as a ‘bias-motivated crime,’ ” said Robbinsdale chief of police Steve Smith. “Officially, I don’t have the numbers, but I can only recall 10 over 21 years.”

Which may be of little solace to Donna and Indigo, who have been staying with Donna’s brother since the incident, and are considering moving out of the building.

World view shaken

“I have an appointment to view a new apartment but as a single mom who lives paycheck to paycheck, coming up with a deposit and first month’s rent will be more than I’m capable of. Until I can get my finances together, Indigo and I will have to make the best of it,” said Pfarr, who admitted that her world view has been shaken by the incident.

“My daughter’s only crime was being born black. She’s biracial, but she’ll always be looked at as a black girl,” she said. “It makes me sad that people are still raised with hate and fear. I feel like I have to be more cautious and more aware of my environment and surroundings. I have to teach my daughter to stand up for herself, because this probably isn’t going to be the last time something like this happens. I have to be that example that we don’t just lay down and let people walk over us, but we stand up for who we are.”

For Pfarr, part of that example means telling as many people as she can about the incident, and turning the other cheek.

“I want the community to know about this hate crime. Not only was I affected, but the tenants who live here were also victims of this. My upstairs neighbors’ grandchildren are biracial, and we just cried in each other’s arms. People should know that this did happen, and that my daughter doesn’t feel safe, and I don’t know how I’ll make her feel safe again,” said Pfarr.

“But since we, as a community, were a victim to this horrible crime, together we will heal. My upstairs neighbor will be making sure Indigo gets on and off the bus safely when I’m at work, my nephew came and spent the night, my neighbors cried and embraced us with love. My blood family and friends have rallied behind us, so to answer your question about how I respond to this crime: with love, with silence, with forgiveness.”

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by Don Berryman on 01/16/2014 - 12:33 pm.

    In 2014? In the north?

    Post-racial America is a myth. This is very sad.

  2. Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 01/16/2014 - 02:55 pm.

    I HOPE…

    I hope she has the courage to stay, and the wit to install a small unobtrusive camera monitor in the hall that will show her front door. These can be had for very little money nowadays.

  3. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 01/16/2014 - 03:31 pm.

    This is gonna set Conservatives back a bit

    For them, all racism officially ended on November 4, 2008.

  4. Submitted by jason myron on 01/16/2014 - 05:47 pm.

    Not to play amateur sleuth,

    but the writing on that door tag has certain feminine characteristics. Maybe I’m watching too much Elementary….in any event, I hope they catch the person or persons that did this. No one should be subjected to this kind of ugly abuse.

  5. Submitted by Michele Olson on 01/16/2014 - 05:52 pm.

    The penmanship (spraymanship?) is almost artsy, considering the filth in the message. Almost … feminine. Pfarr mentioned that she goes to bed at nine; could she have complained about a neighbor’s loud music? (Or some neighbor thinks she did.) I’m not excusing this disgusting graffiti, but as an apartment dweller, I know how hard it is to keep peace with some neighbors (and some are just plain nuts.)

    We had the fire alarms go off one evening in our building, and all ran downstairs to find hate messages on the stair hallway. (I live in a diverse building.) It was extremely disturbing. The people here are just minding their own business, working to earn a living. They deserve to be left alone. The police weren’t much help, either.

    My heart and best wishes go out to Ms. Pfarr and her beautiful daughter. I can definitely understand why she wants to move. I just wish there were really a safe haven in this world.

  6. Submitted by Steven Bailey on 01/16/2014 - 08:22 pm.

    Not a day goes by

    There isn’t a single day that goes by that doesn’t makes me sadder to be an American. I think we are more racist now than when I was a kid in the 70’s. We are more polluted, more hateful, more uninformed, and too many seem unable to live with one another. We are a nation that has failed. The money that has tried to destroy the promise of our country, to their own ends, has won.

    • Submitted by Tom Lynch on 01/17/2014 - 09:01 pm.

      It started

      when the hard right kicked out all the moderates and liberals from the Republican party. That began with Goldwater in 64, was furthered by Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, and started to bloom with Reagan. And has gotten steadily worse since then. The Republican party has become the most radical party in U.S. history(at least since the pro-slavery Democrats). Disgusting.

  7. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 01/16/2014 - 09:23 pm.

    Blaming the victim

    The police’s question, ‘Who did you upset so much to make them do this?,” took me aback. Like asking a rape victim what the victim did to lead the attacker on. Sometimes people get targeted because others don’t like who they are.

    And I agree, the graffiti style looks feminine.

  8. Submitted by Presley Martin on 01/17/2014 - 11:04 am.

    Spray paint

    I don’t think you can discern penmanship from spray painted words, but they should be looking at other nearby areas that were recently tagged with white spray paint and have security cameras. The cops should have just knocked on everyone’s door in the building the morning of the incident and asked to see their hands, spray paint always gets on your fingers and it usually takes a few washing to get it all off.
    Have you ever read the comments on the City Pages website? This is like a physical manifestation of some of the comments on that blog. As a recent immigrant to MN from California, I have to say that there seems to be a lot more hate speech here than I assumed there would be. Are there any kind of diversity training/fear mitigation programs in the schools?

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