As health professionals and experts urge individuals to wear masks amid the novel coronavirus nationwide, many still refuse. While some are finally wearing masks in public spaces, a few are taking the opportunity as a way to express their xenophobia and racist views. In a video shared on social media, a man and a woman can be seen wearing swastika masks in a Minnesota Walmart, when confronted by other customers the woman made aggressive gestures.
“If you vote for Biden, you’re going to be living in Nazi Germany,” the woman with the swastika mask said to shopper Raphaela Mueller. The video, which has since then gone viral, was filmed and shared to Facebook by Mueller. In addition to posting the video, Mueller shared that she was born and raised in Germany and had grown up hearing stories of her great-grandmother who had fought in the underground against the Nazis.
“Let me make this abundantly clear once and for all - THE SWASTIKA IS A HATE SYMBOL AND YOU DO NOT FLY THE FLAG, YOU DO NOT WEAR THE SYMBOL ANYWHERE ON YOUR BODY, YOU DO NOT USE OR DEFEND THIS SYMBOL, EVER. END OF STORY,” Mueller said on Facebook. Mueller noted that her post needed edits from “trolls and haters” commenting. Before editing the post, Mueller shared that her first reaction upon seeing the masks was “nausea and wanting to cry” she added that she “can’t imagine what that must feel like for other people who lost family members in the Holocaust.”
In the video, another shopper can be heard telling the couple that they are “sick” in addition to referencing World War II. “We literally had a war about this. And the Nazis lost,” the shopper said. “You cannot be American and wear that mask.”
According to the Star Tribune, the couple was allegedly using the masks to protest the state’s mask mandate, which went into effect on Saturday. Marshall city law enforcement responded to the incident Saturday afternoon and issued trespass notices to the two. Should they return to the store the couple could face arrest, police said. While the 59-year-old man and 64-year-old woman both left without charges, the trespass notice bans them from visiting any Walmart for at least one year, KARE-TV reported.
In response to the incident, Walmart officials issued a statement on Saturday calling the series of events “unacceptable”. “We strive to provide a safe and comfortable shopping environment for all our customers and will not tolerate any form of discrimination or harassment in any aspect of our business. We are asking everyone to wear face coverings when they enter our stores for their safety and the safety of others and it’s unfortunate that some individuals have taken this pandemic as an opportunity to create a distressing situation for customers and associates in our store,” Walmart said, Kiro7 reported.
The city of Marshall is home to a growing and diverse community. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 100 Somali community members came together and fundraised to support the city and its residents. “As we battle COVID-19 our Somali Community in Marshall have come together and asked ourselves what can we do as citizens of this great City of Marshall we all love and call home,” Mohamed Ahmed, local Somali Community Leader told Marshall Radio. “We all need to come together and help each other in any way we can because we are all in this together.”
But despite the city’s diversity and pride in it, just 50 miles away in Murdock, white supremacists are grouping together to claim roots in the area. “We just don’t need this crap out here,” Peter Kennedy, a resident of Murdock said. “What other religion in the world makes a big deal out of the color of your skin?” He added: “Maybe the real face of racism is coming to meet us face to face in Murdock.” As more racists, xenophobic, and anti-Semitic individuals come together to protest safety measures and threaten the diversity of a town, it is up to residents and the nation as a whole to remind them that discrimination will not be welcome or accepted in this country.