PHOENIX — Susan Smiley Schramm’s quiet Friday morning was interrupted by what she called a hateful and xenophobic letter found in the family’s mailbox.
When Smiley Schramm checked her mail that morning, she found an unsigned, handwritten letter claiming to be from a neighbor. It read, "Why if you love Mexico so much to hang their flag, you live here in USA? Why don’t you move back to Mexico, since you are missing it! If you don’t love USA, leave it!" the note stated. "We in the neighborhood would give you a one-way ticket to Mexico!”
Smiley Schramm, 57, said she believes the note was written in response to a gay pride flag that hangs on her porch. At the center of the rainbow flag is the Mexico coat of arms.
Smiley Schramm and her husband, Joe Schramm, filed a harassment complaint with Phoenix police Saturday. Phoenix police declined to comment or respond to questions about any similar incidents in the area.
She and her husband are both white. One of her sons is gay and was recently married, Smiley Schramm said. She said the family purchased the flag at a recent gay pride event in Phoenix.
The couple, who have lived in the neighborhood on the Scottsdale/Phoenix border since December, called the letter troubling. They said it was one more example exposing a darker truth about racism in America that has been awakened during this year’s election season.
Smiley Schramm said the letter makes her worried about others in the neighborhood, such as a Russian family next door and a woman a few houses down who wears a hijab. She believes the tone of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump had led to increase in public displays of racism.
“It was a puzzlement and a chuckle at first. I'm a white woman with five white kids,” she said of the letter. "But then you start to think, and it’s scary.”
Schramm said racism has always existed in America, but he believes the conversations surrounding the presidential campaign have made people feel more comfortable expressing such beliefs in public.
“People have xenophobic beliefs and biases. It’s already been there,” he said. “Trump has flushed it out more.”
Smiley Schramm said she raised her children to be “colorblind” and respect people of all walks of life. She said she conducted missionary work in Mexico and fell in love with the culture.
“Things that scare you, you have to villainize to make yourself comfortable,” Smiley Schramm said. “That’s all kinds of wrong. You miss all the great human fabulousness.”
The couple said they have no intention of taking down the flag, and they hope whoever sent the note takes the time to learn about other cultures.
Follow Adrian Hedden on Twitter: @AdrianHedden