BRANDON, S.D. (KELO) — It was a normal Thursday evening for 16-year-old Dreavin Hodge as he left his girlfriend’s house; that is until he noticed a note tucked into the door handle of his car. Thinking it was a parking ticket, Dreavin got into his vehicle and opened the note which contained racial slurs and anti-Black History Month sentiment.
The Brandon Valley sophomore drove home and showed the note to his parents.
“I had just gotten home from darts and my wife and son was in the kitchen, and they said, ‘we have something to show you…,'” Dreavin’s father Rasheed Hodge Sr. told KELOLAND News. “I read the note and instantly I felt angry, but most of all I felt hurt because it happened to my son, and I didn’t think something like this would happen to him at this point in time in his life.”
Dreavin’s mother, Kylie Hodge, said she felt not just anger, but frustration and anxiety as well. Her thoughts turned to who might have left this note on Dreavin’s car.
“Brandon is not an overly big community… Especially with the kids. Kids know who’s dating, kids know each other’s cars,” Kylie said.
While his parents’ emotions ranged from hurt to disappointment, Dreavin said he felt confused about the situation.
“I like to think I’m a pretty likable guy around my school and stuff. Like, I don’t really do anything to make people mad much. So, I was just kind of confused on why I received that letter,” Dreavin said.
Immediately, Kylie contacted the family of Dreavin’s girlfriend and asked them to look at the footage on their doorbell camera. The girlfriend’s family reached out to their neighbors to do the same to try to find who left the note, but so far, they have yet to find anything on surveillance footage. Then, Kylie and Rasheed turned to the police in Brandon.
While a police report has been filed, the family is still awaiting answers about the note. Kylie wants to know why someone would do this.
“What did this person, what did that individual or individuals, get out of that note? Did they go home at night– What did they feel after they wrote that?” Kylie said.
The Hodge family has lived in Brandon for 12 years. They’re active members of the community, with their kids participating in sports and community events. “We are a familiar face around Brandon,” Rasheed said.
The family describes the city as a small-knit community full of great people, but Rasheed says that every community has its bad apples. While this is Dreavin’s first experience of this nature, Rasheed and Kylie said they have never tried to shield their children from the realities of racism, but this incident has made those realities hit home for the Hodge family.
“Growing up as a black man in America, it’s not like you get used to racism but you can get numb to it.”Rasheed Hodge Sr.
Dreavin hopes this experience can be eye-opening for others to see how important it is to talk about what happened to him.
“Some people are kind of blind to the subject, that stuff like this does happen to people of color,” Dreavin said. “Some people kind of think, just because times have changed, stuff like this doesn’t happen anymore, and this sort of racism doesn’t happen much anymore.”
The family says things like this note shouldn’t happen, but they still do.
“This country has a pretty dark history and in order to learn from your mistakes, you gotta first acknowledge your mistakes first in order to move forward,” Rasheed said.
Conversations on racism can be hard and uncomfortable, Rasheed said, but he added that it’s important that people see each other as equals.
“It’s about breaking the cycle,” Rasheed said. “There’s nothing normal about this, there’s no normalcy in this.”
While she cannot feel the same things that her husband and children do because of the color of their skin, Kylie told KELOLAND News that she wants to focus on spreading awareness of inequality that still happens when it comes to racism. She added that awareness starts at home with parents speaking to their children about the impact of the things people say.
“Whether it’s a joke or not, those words dig down deep,” Kylie said.
Support from the Brandon Community
Despite the frustration of the note, the Hodge family says they have received a lot of support from the Brandon community over the last few days. The family has received messages on social media from members of the community and strangers who have been overwhelmingly positive. While the incident didn’t happen on school property, Kylie says that Brandon Valley High School has shown Dreavin support since it happened.
Dreavin says that while he has had conversations with his friends and students at school about what happened, he’s seen a lot of support from teachers that he doesn’t know who have reached out. Dreavin still believes that the community is great but says he has started to look at people differently as he tries to make sense of what happened.
“I’ve thought about the way I treat people at school and the way I interact with people, to try and think of like, ‘Is there any reason as to why this happened?’ And it just kind of leads to more confusion because I can’t really find an answer with it,” Dreavin said.
Despite the community support, Dreavin’s parents still worry about who left the note. Rasheed wonders whether the person who did it is sitting next to Dreavin in school. But moving forward, the family is focused on raising awareness by sharing their story.
“Hopefully by listening to our story and hearing how it actually made my son feel, made me feel, made my wife feel, and our close relatives, and our friends… That it will shine some light and to make sure that it might have come off as a joke to those kids that did that, you know, that there is a lot of pain behind those words that was written on that paper,” Rasheed said.
KELOLAND News reached out to the Brandon School District about the note and received the following response:
The Brandon Valley School District Administration was deeply disturbed upon learning about the terrible off-site event suffered by a Brandon Valley Student, that included a racist note being placed on the student’s windshield.
Immediately upon being informed, BVHS Administration engaged with the student and their family to support the child, and the pursuit of an outside law enforcement investigation.
Brandon Valley remains steadfast in our commitment to support all students and maintain a learning environment that results in success.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) sent a release to KELOLAND News stating that they were calling on both local and federal law enforcement to investigate the note as a hate-crime.
“No American should face racist harassment or intimidation,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.