The words were as hateful as they were unexpected.
But the racist message painted in bold black letters on her garage door, hasn’t fazed Dr. Xaviere Kuate and her family.
“It’s just life and life has to go on,” said the 46-year-old family physician and mother of three.
“I’m surprised it happened in the neighborhood. But I’m not really shocked because I’m black and I know racism exists.”
Kuate and her husband have lived in their house on Merganser Street near the Aviation Parkway for 16 years and it’s the first time they’ve ever been targeted like this, she said.
Kuate was asleep when a neighbor rang the doorbell at 2 a.m. on Saturday to alert the family to the graffiti. The neighbor was too embarrassed to even tell Kuate what it said, but called her out to the driveway to see for herself. The neighbor went home to get cleaning supplies, but the two women couldn’t clean the paint off. Kuate went back to bed since she had to drive her 16-year-old son to a basketball tournament in Toronto.
Kuate’s children had differing reactions: Her son took photos he posted to social media. Kuate’s 14-year-old daughter has stayed mostly silent but her 10-year-old daughter said she was scared and upset by what had happened and asked to be allowed to come with her mom on the Toronto trip.
“To be honest, when I went back to bed at around 4 o’clock I had trouble sleeping too,” Kuate said. “I wondered if they were going to come back.”
A police officer came Saturday morning and took photos of the damage. Ottawa police could not say Monday if the incident had been referred to its hate crimes unit.
“It’s disappointing, but it’s not surprising. Any person of color is going to experience incidents of racism,” said Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King, who was sworn in just two weeks ago as Ottawa’s first black councilor.
“It’s not something that should be tolerated and we should ensure that we speak loudly about racism like this,” said King, who visited Kuate on Monday afternoon.
Ottawa-Vanier Liberal MP Mona Fortier said she was deeply troubled by the incident.
“We must all publicly condemn these sorts of actions because when we fail to denounce racist acts with total conviction we empower the small minority who wish to spread hatred and incite violence,” Fortier said in a statement.
Meanwhile, neighbors have rallied around Kuate and her family. They’ve received cards and a bouquet of flowers. Others have offered to help clean and repaint the garage door. Kuate, who got back from Toronto on Sunday night, said Monday she’s been too busy to do anything about the graffiti.
“Maybe tomorrow,” she said.
Kuate emigrated from her home country of Cameroon when she was 19 and spent a decade in Belgium before moving to Canada 20 years ago. She encountered some racism in Belgium, but little in Canada. In 12 years of medical practice, she’s had just two patients who’ve said racist things to her.
She has no idea who could have targeted the family. Neither she nor her children have made any enemies that she knows of.
“You think it might have been teens, but you would think teens would have done it really fast and run away. But they used an apostrophe and an exclamation point, so who knows? It’s all just speculation.”
The family will consider installing security cameras for their protection, she said.
King said the incident could be linked to the rise of populism and far-right groups that are taking out their anger on immigrants.
“It’s a high irony because Canada is a country of immigrants,” he said.
“The last time I was called n—-r was two years ago as I walked down Cyrville Road from my work. It seems abnormal to other people, but for people of color, that’s just their every day experience.”