Once again in Metro Detroit, a neighbor displays a symbol of racial hatred in a way that only the person of color living next door can see. A month ago, it was a guy draping a KKK flag over his side window to a Black family in Grosse Pointe Park.
Today, it's St. Clair Shores resident Michelle Mormul, 51, who finds herself the target. She faces a Confederate battle flag, hung in a patio window in such a way that only she can see it as she sits on her back deck on the canal side of the house.
Obviously, a resident can hang anything they want inside their house, which was why Grosse Pointe Park police said they couldn’t make the guy with the KKK flag take it down. (Although he did.) Mormul said her neighbor put his Stars and Bars up last fall, when the two found themselves on opposite sides of the political divide. And he has rebuffed any effort on her part to start a conversation where she might ask that he take it down.
The Confederate flag was never a neutral statement, although some have said they fly it to show pride in one’s southern heritage. It's often associated with white supremacy and racism and in particular, the most hard-core Trump supporters; one man carried it into the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection there. Mormul, whose own heritage is both white and Hispanic, finds it a personal rebuke.
Mormul, a rental property manager, has a weekly writing club that meets on her deck, in full view of the Confederate flag. Another member of the group, Shelia Brody-Head, said she’s worried for Mormul's safety as a biracial, gay, single woman living next to someone who displays such a symbol where she can see it.
"I was very concerned that my friend has to live with racism in her own backyard and whoever she invites to share her amenities," said Brody. "It's directly a racist act, no question."
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Deadline Detroit knocked on the neighbor’s door and left a message on his phone, but no one has responded.
Mormul knows there's nothing police can do about the display, but she wants it gone nonetheless.
"I've accepted the normalcy of having a Confederate flag facing my deck," said Mormul. "Just take down the flag. That would be the ultimate (goal)."
This is not the only incident of harassment Mormul has faced. Two months ago, she received in the mail a foot-long cardboard tube. On the outside of the tube, "VaginalOdorHelper.com” thanked her for her order. Inside was a note calling her lawn “the most disgusting disgrace to the neighborhood,” and Mormul herself “a pathetic property value lowering jackass,” among other insults.
Real Estate Agent
Police told her the sender was a local real estate agent who lives nearby. (If you point your browser to VaginalOdorHelper.com, you will be redirected to a site that sends that and other prank mailers, all in the middle school-humor vein.)
For her part, Mormul says she's not scared of her next door neighbor's racism or the other's misogynistic hate mail disguised as a childish prank.
"I am a woman -- a powerful woman. That scares the doo-doo out of him."
You tell 'em sister. Welcome to Macomb County. Things are bound to get interesting around here.
Watch an interview with Mormul in the video below.