BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University men’s basketball coach Louis Orr said the racially charged graffiti he found scrawled on the sidewalk in front of his home Sunday doesn’t change his opinion that Bowling Green is “a good place to live.”
"My family and I have been in Bowling Green for six years now, and the community has embraced my family, made us feel welcome and comfortable,” he said Tuesday in an emotional talk with reporters. “I’ve lived a lot of places, and this has been a good place to live.”
“As a husband and a father, you’re concerned about your family. For my wife, Yvette, my son, Chauncey, my daughter, Monica, my grandson, Isaiah, and my nephew, Jackson, who is a sophomore at B.G. High School, we’ve always felt safe and comfortable [here]. This one incident, by no means, represents our experience here. And it’s not an indictment on the community. Something like this could happen anywhere in America.”
Police have made no arrests in the case but are looking for information about the graffiti and about another racially motivated incident reported by a black BGSU student on Monday.
Chad M. Franklin, 24, told police he walked outside his house in the 200 block of East Merry Avenue about 8:30 a.m. Monday and found that someone had smashed watermelons on his car, poked holes in the vent near the windshield, and left a note with a racial epithet. He said he felt he had been targeted.
“These two incidents are aberrations from what we expect to see in the city of Bowling Green,” said Police Lt. Brad Biller. “Obviously it’s very troubling to us, and we’re in the process of trying to get a handle on where and what is causing that. We’re looking for any information anyone in the community can provide to get us closer to answering those questions.”
It is unclear whether the two incidents are related. The residences are about 3 miles apart.
Mr. Orr said his wife spotted the graffiti on Sunday on the sidewalk in front of his Pine Valley Drive home in the Stone Ridge Golf Club neighborhood.
“Everyone knows my wife is a big walker, and on Sunday she was going to go walk before she went to church,” he said. “I was home, getting ready to come to practice, and she came back in [to the house] and said, ‘Louis, there’s something written on our driveway.’ She couldn't read the first part. She wasn’t frantic or anything like that. So I told her I would go take a look.”
The vandals had drawn a swastika and written “white power” on the sidewalk in chalk.
“I know there are racial tones to that, but I’m not exactly sure what ‘white power’ means,” Mr. Orr said. “I know they targeted our house because we are black, and I don’t know how many other black families there are [in our neighborhood], so it wasn’t by accident. I thought about it, and I thought I should get the police involved.”
A deeply religious man, Mr. Orr called the incident an “issue of the heart.”
“And only God can heal the heart, not legislation or whatever,” he said. “We trust in God for our protection, and we pray for those who may have some resentment towards me or our family or a race issue in general.”
When asked what he meant by an “issue of the heart,” Mr. Orr said, “That’s what I have learned from my faith. The heart is the seat of our emotions, and the Bible describes a man’s heart as ‘desperately wicked.’ I just think that when you deal with issues of race, they are deep-rooted issues. And God has to transform that heart, you have to see things in a different way.”
Mr. Orr, who has served as the school’s basketball coach since the 2007-08 season, said he didn’t feel the incident was related to basketball. “I can't speak for whoever did this, but I don’t think this was basketball-related; I don’t look at it that way,” he said. “I don’t know why [it happened]. I am black, and they knew I lived there, but I don’t think this has anything to do with basketball.”
Mr. Orr said he has appreciated the positive response he has received from B.G. residents after the incident. “We have enjoyed living here, and we enjoy living here,” he said. “The community has reached out to me since all this has happened and offered kindness and support, and anger. No one has to really apologize for the actions of whoever [did this]. I know people here are genuine, and there’s no anger towards anyone here in Bowling Green.”
Blade staff writer Jennifer Feehan contributed to this report.
Contact John Wagner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.