By Donald H. Harrison, Editor, San Diego Jewish World
Reprinted with permission from San Diego Jewish World, a member of the San Diego Online News Association
May 11, 2020 (Santee) — So, imagine you are shopping and into the store comes someone who is wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood, or a face mask with a swastika on it, as happened respectively at a Vons and a Food4Less outlet in Santee recently. What should you do?
I asked Tammy Gillies (right), regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, what she would suggest. Her answers divided the suggested responses by categories.
- If you are a customer, she said, don’t confront the person directly; it might lead to violence. Instead, she said, go to the manager of the store and tell him or her that the hood, or mask, or whatever other symbol intended to provoke outrage is being displayed, has made you very uncomfortable about continuing to shop in the store.
- If you are the manager, you have the right to ask a person displaying hate symbols to either put them away or to leave the store. If the person refuses to comply, you have the power to call in law enforcement, Gillies said.
- If you are a member of law enforcement, you should take the situation seriously, as did the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department when it was called to Food4Less where a man who has self-identified to news media as Dustin Hart of Alpine wore a mask featuring the Nazi swastika. Sheriff’s officers told Hart to remove the mask or leave the store, and he complied by doing the former.
- If you are a public official, said Gillies, use your “bully pulpit” to denounce acts of hate, so that people will know that such acts are neither condoned nor acceptable. She complimented both Santee Mayor John Minto and San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob for immediately denouncing the display of hate symbols in the two cited instances.
- If you are a member of the news media, she said, report the incident because it is better to shine light on acts of hate than to permit hate to grow in the dark. She said after the klan hood and swastika incidents were reported, commentary on social media went overwhelmingly against the perpetrators.
Gillies said that whereas Hart’s social media presence indicates that he espouses hard-core white supremacist beliefs, other demonstrations using Nazi symbols to protest California’s “stay-at-home” restrictions are different in intent, but are nevertheless dangerous.
At various protests around the state, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been depicted with a Hitler-style mustache in an effort to equate the restrictions he placed on public gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic with Nazi-style abrogation of the public’s right to assemble peacefully.
The problem with that, according to Gillies, is that by comparing Newsom to Hitler, and public health regulations to the oppressive laws of the Nazi era, it has the effect of minimizing the Holocaust in which six million Jews among other people were ruthlessly murdered because Hitler and his followers considered them to be inferior to “Aryans.”
“Nothing compares with the Holocaust,” Gillies said flatly.
Meanwhile, after questioning the man who wore the Ku Klux Klan hood, the Sheriff’s Department announced that he would not be cited, as his act — however hateful it might be — was protected free speech. The sheriff’s office said the man told them he had worn it to protest being told what he could and could not do and did not mean it as a racial attack.