John Miranda is not a racist. The 68-year-old former Marine insists he posted a sign reading "For Sale to Whites Only" in front of his Waddell home because he wants to protect future owners of the property from racism. Miranda is leaving his Clearwater Farms neighborhood because he says the property owners' association won't bother to respond to a dispute over a ditch dug near his property. Miranda says he's being ignored because he's "just a Mexican." No matter that the POA board includes a Hispanic member, or that the sign he posted makes Miranda look like a bigot himself. He's a man with a mission, and it's not about real estate.
New Times: You're selling your house. And you put up a "For Sale to Whites Only" sign. What were you thinking?
John Miranda: I built this house in 1999. And after I built it, some guy built that house [next door] and he dug this ditch, and I called the [property owners'] association to complain, and what they told me is, "We're not cops."
NT: How insolent!
Miranda: You know it. I'm paying $300 a year for that kind of treatment? No way. So I called the accountant for the association, and he told me he'd call me back. And nothing. When I finally got him on the phone, he said the POA isn't responsible. But he never returned any of my calls.
NT: The nerve!
Miranda: Yeah. So I put the house up for sale. I'm selling it because of harassment. I go to dialysis three times a week. I had open-heart surgery last year. I don't need this damn harassment. I need to get the hell out of here and go to someplace peaceful and quiet, and that's not here.
NT: But what's this thing about selling the house to white people?
Miranda: Well, I was putting up my For Sale sign, and I thought, "I'm gonna put them on the ropes. Let them answer some questions." So I put the "whites only" sign up, and the neighbors and other people around here went to the POA and said, "Can't you do something about this?" And the president of the POA said, "No. He has every right to put that sign up." Which is bullshit. Because it's against the law to put up a sign like that.
NT: And what happened next?
Miranda: I explained [everything] to the attorney general, and she was really nice, she came and talked to me, a very wonderful lady, she was just gorgeous.
NT: But the attorney general is a man.
Miranda: He is?
NT: Pretty much, yeah.
Miranda: Well, it must have been a secretary or something. Anyway, I explained to her why the sign went up, and she was real nice.
NT: You put the sign up because you want to make sure that other people aren't discriminated against?
Miranda: Yes. My conscience has to be clean. If I sold this house to a Mexican, I would have to explain to that Mexican the reason I'm selling. And these notices from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. [Someone] called up and filed a complaint, and they're investigating me for animal cruelty. And they came out here and they found nothing. Plenty of water, plenty of grass for the horses.
NT: It says right here on the notices that they found the animals well cared for.
Miranda: It's harassment! I think it must be from the association, but I don't have any proof. And then the livestock inspector came out. It's been one after another.
NT: And you're saying it's not about your horses, it's about the color of your skin?
Miranda: It's a prejudice deal.
NT: How are you being discriminated against?
Miranda: I had trash in the yard and I burned it. They sent me a letter of complaint. That's bullshit. And then the next thing I know, they went to the zoning department and filed a complaint that I had built an Arizona room in the back of my house. And I had to tear it down, because I didn't have permission to build. It's harassment. I'm fed up. I spent $2,000 filling that ditch in.
NT: And what would you like the association to do for you?
Miranda: I would greatly appreciate it if they would reimburse me [for filling in the ditch]. They're at fault. They should also learn to listen to complaints. I filed a complaint, and their attorney told me that if I lose the case, I'm going to have to pay all the legal fees.
NT: Well, yes. That's sort of how it works. I read that the attorney general had a formal complaint against you.
Miranda: No. Not at all. They were tickled pink that I was willing to sit down and talk with them about this. Now it's up to me to prove to the courts that [the POA] is bigots. Because I'm not going to let them go. I'm Mexican. My dad came from Guadalajara.
NT: You're standing up for your rights.
Miranda: That's exactly what I'm saying. I feel like I'm being pushed out of my neighborhood. What would you think? You're a white person. If you'd come in here, built a house, a pasture for your horses, and your neighborhood association was a bunch of Mexicans who tried to run you out, what the hell you gonna think?
NT: I see your point. Maybe your neighbors don't like Mexicans.
Miranda: That's what I'm thinking. But when I told them I think they're prejudiced, they got this Mexican to be on their board. They created a position on the board, a special position for a Mexican guy, just to prove that they're not bigots.
NT: Discrimination is wrong.
Miranda: Absolutely. No one should be held back because he's Mexican or black or Native American.
NT: But your sign suggested that you were discriminating against most of those people.
Miranda: Exactly. I wanted to get [some attention] and blow [the POA] away. They want a lily-white outfit in here? I'll give them lily white.
NT: You're not a racist. But aren't you worried that people will think you're a racist?
Miranda: Yes. I got some calls from that. But I had to do something. I wasn't going to let some Mexican or black family come in here, because that would be on my conscience.
NT: What has response been from buyers?
Miranda: I had some calls from people who were in agreement with the sign. And I had calls from people who were totally against it. I knew that would happen. The lady from the Fair Housing deal came out the other day, and I said, "You want me to take the sign down, I'll take it down."
NT: What's the response been from the POA?
Miranda: They've never contacted me. They told some of the TV news people that I'm just trying to draw attention to myself.
NT: But that's true! You are!
Miranda: Yeah. And it sort of ended when the guy from Fair Housing came out to take my picture taking the sign down.
NT: What are other Mexican people saying?
Miranda: Well, I had a lady and her son come out to look at the house, but they were from Peru.
NT: Peru is not in Mexico.
Miranda: I know. I told them, "Look, the POA is an organization of bigots, and you may get the heat. You may not want to buy this."
NT: I thought you were trying to sell your house.
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Miranda: Well, it's worth it. I remember when I was in the first grade, and I had to walk a mile to school, and the teacher was a stone-cold bigot. First day, she said to me, "I don't see why you guys don't go to the black school." The black school was three miles further away! I remember going into a store to buy a pack of gum, and they wouldn't sell it to me. I remember signs saying "No Mexicans Allowed." Anyway, this whole thing brought those memories back.
NT: Still, putting that sign out seems like a shocking way of making a point.
Miranda: I know. I took a risk of being harmed. Because some of the people who called were not too nice. They called me an MF and like that. That I was a stinking bigot and stuff. Lowered the boom on me. But to me, it was worth it. I couldn't live with myself if another Mexican family moved in here and had to live like this. I couldn't.