In the year of coronavirus, it appears the summer of 2020 has become a summer of hate in Minnesota. "may be becoming" or "is becoming"
Minnesotans are seeing a growing number of hate incidents in recent years. Such incidents often focus on those of Chinese, Hmong and Japanese ancestry, due to the growing fear of the coronavirus pandemic that originated in China. Of course, there are the old standards — hate crimes against Blacks, Jews or Native Americans.
The number of incidents appears to be increasing with the heat of summer.
During the last weekend in June, Duluth City Council members were featured in a Facebook meme dressed wearing buckskins, blankets or feathers and sitting around a fire and passing a pipe. The caption read "Explaining Duluth City Council priorities." Duluth Mayor Emily Larson has proposed removing the word "chief" from several city job titles. The term is considered offensive in reference to Indigenous people, according to Larson.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, Stillwater residents rallied in support of an Islamic woman who was harassed by an Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood group at a Stillwater restaurant during the last weekend of June.
Law enforcement have now identified a man known as "Umbrella Man," who was allegedly responsible for property destruction in south Minneapolis during the George Floyd protests. He reportedly was present near the Stillwater incident and is known member or associate of Hells Angels biker gang and a white supremacist group known as the Aryan Cowboy Brotherhood.
In early July, New Ulm residents noticed graffiti depicting Hitler and swastikas appearing on a community wall, as well as racial slurs about Jewish and Black people. The offensive graffiti was painted over, only to re-appear again on July 7. New Ulm police are investigating.
On July 22, a couple appeared wearing face masks adorned with the Nazi swastika, a well-defined hate symbol, while shopping at the Walmart store in Marshall. Confronted by other shoppers, the swastika-masked woman stated, "If you vote for (Joe) Biden, you're going to be living in Nazi Germany."
Earlier this week, a Wabasha County GOP board member made a vitriolic post on the group's Facebook page. The post compared Minnesota's mask mandate to Jewish people being forced to wear a star in concentration camps by the Nazi regime. The GOP board member, who has not been identified, has since resigned, according to Minnesota Republican Party Chairperson Jennifer Carnahan.
Utilizing racial stereotypes, Confederate or Nazi imagery to make a political point is inexcusable. Such imagery has often been adopted and co-opted by racial supremacists to inflame their movement's base and carry their message of hatred.
They have no place in Minnesota.
Furthermore, the use of any Nazi imagery is offensive and disrespectful to every Minnesotan who served in World War II against Nazi Germany and other Axis powers. It dishonors every single Minnesotan who sacrificed their lives in the European theater during WWII.
The fact is hate incidents are growing in Minnesota. Anti-Semitic incidents in Minnesota alone have risen 32% in 2019, compared to the previous year, according to Anti-Defamation League Midwest.
Minnesotans should no longer stand idle to hatred among our residents.
Kudos to Raphaela Mueller, a 24-year-old German native, who confronted and recorded on video the swastika-masked couple, and called out the Nazi symbology for what it is — hatred.
A vicar at a southwest Minnesota church, Mueller posted on social media, "I was born and raised in Germany, and I grew up hearing about my great-grandmother who fought in the underground against the first wave of Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s."
Mueller's action last week is a great example for Minnesotans to follow by calling out and resisting the message of hate. She displayed the moral courage to peacefully resist the message of hate.
Her "good trouble" response should be a model for every Minnesotan. We must summon the courage to fight hatred every time.
This editorial is the opinion of the West Central Tribune Editorial Board, consisting of publisher Steve Ammermann and editor Kelly Boldan.