As I walked around Westerwood on Saturday morning, I passed countless of Black Lives Matter signs staked in people’s front yards. White text on a black background, they were literal signs of solidarity, often shown by white people, in the midst of the revitalized movement for Black lives that took off in 2020.
And while some activists and think pieces have called the signs pandering or performative, I couldn’t help but wonder what Black folks think when they see those signs. So I asked them.
Editor’s note: This is clearly a very informal, very small survey and is not meant to express the views of all Black people about these signs. Duh.
Also, one way to support Black lives if you do want to get a BLM sign is to make sure you’re ordering from a Black-owned business. Do your research!
Natalie Miller, owner of Magnolia House in Greensboro
“They don’t make me feel safer. I just am thankful for the owner of the property in which the sign lives.”
Casey Thomas, community organizer
“My first reaction when I see a bunch of them near each other, is, ‘Ooh… I bet we could get this precinct to vote for someone useful pretty easily.'”
Byron Gladden, former Guilford County school board member
“I feel more seen if they are in predominantly white areas and there is additional work going on around racial equity and bias.”
Veneé Pawlowski, owner of Black Magnolia Southern Patisserie
“It’s nice to know that there are people that I don’t have to guess whether or not they perceive Black lives as a threat. It’s also nice to see allyship and have people that aren’t normally put upon stand up for those who otherwise are ignored.”
Jermaine Exum, owner of Acme Comics
“So those signs let me know where the homeowner stands. Just like Confederate flags on houses that I’d see on houses as a kid kind of let me know something about the homeowner. I guess I still see those now depending on where I am. I think to myself as I drive by, Would I be welcome in that house? I’ll never know, but still I would wonder. Not that any sign translates to certainty of reception, but when I see a BLM sign I at the very least know that the homeowner thinks about the concerns and worth of others outside of their house.”
Mary Smith, mother of Marcus Deon Smith and community activist
“I love them. Because Black Lives Matter. And in our case Marcus’ life did matter. So I like them.”
Tenicka Shannon, mother of Fred Cox Jr. and community activist
“They are a constant reminder to those that don’t believe we matter, however, they don’t make me feel safer. As an African American who has witnessed police brutality first-hand, nothing makes me feel safe.”
Nikki Miller-Ka, former TCB food editor, food expert
“I have one. I live in a majority white neighborhood but I saw other neighbors with them and it made me feel safe, tbh. I felt empowered to get a sign after seeing neighbors with them. Someone stole our original sign though. Now we keep it closer to the house so if they want, they will have to come and get it.”
Peter Daye, owner of Cut the Music prints
“When I see a BLM yard sign, it’s a household saying, ‘THIS house is a house that’s on the side of fair treatment and justice to black and brown people…’ Just a show of support. I don’t think of safety.”
Prince Mundeke, Senior Pastor at El-Shaddai Vision Church USA
“BLM signs doesn’t change anything at all. Racism is in DNA of Americans. To me the signs are just giving awareness of something that people already know it exist. Promotion of Black excellency in every life aspect will be a better way to fight racism. More Blacks in medical career, more business, more banks, more PhDs in Black communities. BLM is a political activity of Democratic party.”
Ingram Bell, director of Cure Violence Greensboro
“I love BLM yard signs. They don’t make me feel safe or unsafe. They promote love in our community as well as support! They bring unison to an issue of a people who are underserved and marginalized.”
Daniel White, photographer
“It does feel good to see the BLM signs when I walk/drive around different areas (Greensboro and beyond). The awareness is cool, but I do wonder what else the individuals are doing to further teach themselves and others about racial injustices around the world. I can’t say that I makes me feel safer when I’m wandering around when I see the signs, mostly because I know in the back of my head that even with the signs there, anything can still happen in the climate were in.”
Blake Odum, CEO of The Motivational Foundation
“If I see a Black Lives Matter yard-sign in a neighborhood, it makes me think that there is a certain level of tolerance for Black people. It does make me think, People in this neighborhood are more tolerant to the social justice ideology that ‘Black Lives Matter,’ …if that makes sense.”
Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.
We believe that reporting can save the world.
The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.
All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.