Often in history, there are symbols that have a specific meaning. It can be especially sacred to an ethnic group or considered a hate symbol to another. Quite often, these symbols are co-opted by another group, used within white supremacy. It is racist and in some cases, ableist.
Black Lives Matter Logo was Co-opted by Autism Moms
The people who co-opted this logo are the Autism Society of San Francisco Bay Area. A mother named Feda Almaliti was hosting a program which was sponsored by ASSF. ASSF is run by Jill Escher. Jill Escher is also the founder of National Society on Severe Autism. This program was called #autismmomlivesmatter. This program took place in 2017 and 2018.
This has recently resurfaced because Feda and her 15 year old autistic son Muhamad, who liked to be called Mu, had died in a house fire on September 25, 2020. Her neurotypical children survived. Mu and his mother were upstairs and the other two sons were downstairs. This has been a tragic accident. Feda died cuddling her son, so he would be comforted until the tragic end.
It is colored blue due to Autism Speak’s “light it up blue campaign.
Co-opting this symbol trivializes the struggle of the black community, especially black autistics. Parents of autistic people are not in danger. Black lives are in danger every day. This racist variation of the BLM logo is equivalent of the racist response of “all lives matter.” Of course they all matter, but not all lives are in danger.
History of Original Symbol and Movement:
When the power fist logo was first used, it was not just for black people. It was used by marginalized groups worldwide speaking out against oppression. It is to reject discriminatory behavior.
The fist was a rebuttal to unjust authority as a collective resistance.
The Black Panther Party was founded 1996 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seal. This was to challenge police brutality against the black community. This fist was repeatedly used as a symbol of black liberation.
There is media footage of the Black Panthers saluting each other with raised fists at conventions, meeting and rallies. This solidified the symbol as synonymous with the fight for black civil rights.
At the 1968 Mexico City Olympic games, the American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who are metal recipients, each wore a black glove and raise their fists during the national anthem during the metal ceremony.
When Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990, after spending 27 years incarcerated, he raised a fist with his wife.
The black power fist has been adopted by allies of the black community, including Gloria Steiem and Bernie Sanders.
Why it is the black lives matter logo
The Black Lives Matter movement campaigns against violence and the systemic racism towards black people. It was co-founded in 2013 by Alicia Carza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. This was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s Murderer, George Zimmerman. They now have more than 40 chapters run by members.
This is only one symbol used by the movement but it was adopted following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014. Brown was an unarmed teenager shot by a white police officer who claimed it was self defense. The power fist was used to represent “hands up, don’t shot” stance.
Since this incident, it has been used in social media posts and at rallies, as a symbol of resistance and defiance, and was created as an emoji in 2015.
Yellow Star of David Badge Co-opted by Anti Vaxxers and Anti Maskers
Anti Vaxxers using Holocaust
In 2019, some anti vaccine activists, also known as anti vaxxers, have appropriated the yellow star of David badge. This badge European Jews were required to wear during the Holocaust to symbolize their “persecution” at the hands of the government vaccine rules.
The star had the words “No Vax” in a font similar to Hebrew text but in English words. This image has been showing up on social media, especially on Facebook, and at anti Vax events.
The anti vaccine movement has been gaining momentum in communities across the country. There has been a recent measles outbreak due to this movement. This outbreak moved the movement to the limelight. This caused some local governments to enforce stricter vaccine requirements.
Arizona and New York have new vaccine rules have been met with protests. Some of these protests lean heavily on Holocaust Comparisons. On Facebook, the Star of David imagery is commonly used by anti vaxxers. They draw the comparison that the strict vaccine rule and government sponsored genocide are one in the same.
Facebook stated that they would no longer support or promote anti vaccine “news” stories or ads. This was in partnership with the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Del Bigtree’s Involvement
Del Bigtree, the chief executive at ICAN (Informed Consent Action Network), quoted Rev. Martin Niemoller’s Holocaust era poem “First They Came.”
In the same breathe he referred to the Hasidic community in Rockland, NY where they refuse vaccines and experiencing a measles outbreak. “How will we know if you’re not vaccinated?” He said this in a mocking tone. “How will we know to arrest you? May be we’ll do it the same way we did the last time. So for you, for all Hasidic Jews in New York, who never thought this moment would come, I stand with you! I stand for religious convictions, We will let you believe in your G-d.”
Poland’s Auchwitz Memorial and Museum quickly responded to Bigtree’s bigotry. They said he was “Instrumentalizing the fate of Jews who were persecuted by hateful anti-semitic ideology and murdered in extermination camps like #Auschwitz with poisonous gas in order to argue against vaccination that saves human lives is a symptom of intellectual and moral degeneration.”
As a Jewish autistic, the Torah teaches us to sustain human life, above all else. This is referred to as פיקוח נפש Pikuach Nefesh. This is the Jewish principle that states that the preservation of human life overrides any other religious rule. When the life of the person is at risk, any ritual is commanded not to be
Antimaskers using Holocaust Imagery to Prost Wearing Masks
There has been references to lockdown and mask wearing compared to the Holocaust. There was one cartoon that uses the imagery of the Yellow Star badge. It was in a weekly Kansas newspaper owned by a county Republican Party Chairman. It has been condemned for comparing a state mandate requiring all residents to wear a mask in public due to the coronavirus pandemic with the roundup of Jews and other marginalized groups during the Holocaust.
History of the Yellow Star of David Badge
In on September 1, 1941 Reihard Heydrich decreed that all Jews over 6 years old in the Reich, Alsace, Bohemia-Moravia and the German annexed territory of western Poland (also called the Warthegau)were required to wear a yellow star of David on their outer clothing in public at all times. The word Jew is to be inscribed inside the star in German. The German word for Jew is Jude.
The badges were mostly printed on yellow coarse fabric and were a garnish yellow color. The star, which is the star of David, was outlined in a thick, black line and the word Jew in Hebrew styled text. Jewish shops were also marked with a yellow star.
During the Nazi era, German authorities reintroduced the Jewish badge as a key element of their greater plan to prosecute and eventually to annihilate the Jewish population of Europe. They used the badge not to only stigmatize and humiliate Jews but also segregate them, control their movements and to prepare for deportation.
The idea of identification was first used in the medieval time by many other societies had forced their Jewish citizens to wear badges to identify themselves.
The Swastika was Co Opted by the Nazis from Sanskrit and Other Cultures
The idea to use it when 19th century German scholars were translating old Indian texts. They noticed similarities between their own language and Sanskrit. They deducted that Indians and Germans must have shared ancestry and imagined a race of white g-d like warriors called Aryans.
After this, the idea was taken by anti semitic nationalist groups who appropriated the swastika as an Aryan symbol to boost the sense of ancient lineage for the Germanic people.
The black straight armed kaencreuz (hooked cross) on the white circle and red background of the Nazi flag became the most hated symbol of this century. It is linked to the horrific incidents committed under the Third Reich.
It is known that over half of the victims of the Holocaust were Jewish but not many people know the first victims were the disabled. The program for extermination of disabled people (who they called “useless eaters”) was known as T4. The people who were part of the final solution were:
- Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Anyone who went against them or to help targeted people
- suspected political opponents
- Soviet Prisioners
History of the Swastika
The swastika is an ancient symbol that emerged in many cultures on several contients. Before the 20th century, its use was almost always benign. It is used by Hindus, Buddhists and adherents of other religons, where is its often associated with good fortune.
The swastika is Sanskrit for “well being.” It was later discovered that the swastika is more European than most realized. Archeological findings have shown that its a very old symbol. The ancient examples are not only from India. It was used by Ancient Greeks, Celts, and Anglo- Saxons. It has even been found in Eastern Europe from Baltic to the Balkans.
There is a museum in Kiev called the National Museum of the History of Ukraine. It holds artifacts including a small ivory figurine of a female bird made from a mammoth tusk. On the torso of this bird, there is a pattern of joined sawstikas. This is the oldest identified pattern with the symbol. It is dated to be over 15,000 years old. It is thought that the symbol was used as a fertility symbol. This was found in 1908 at the Paleolithic settlement of Mezin near the Russian boarder.
Single swastikas started to appear about 7,000 years ago. They became more widespread in the Bronze Age. In the meuseum in Kiev, there are clay pots with single swastikas encircling the upper half which is 4,000 years old. When the Germans took Kiev, they thought this was evidence of their own Aryan ancestors so they were stolen and taken to Germany.
People in Ancient Greece used single swastikas to decorate pots and vases. There is a fragment from a piece that dates to the 7th century. There is also a fragile textile fragments that survived the 12th century. It is believed to be a collar of a Slav princess. It is embroidered with gold grosses and swastikas to ward off evil.
This symbol stayed popular in Eastern Europe and Russia until World War II. A Russian author named Pavel Kutenkov identified approximately 200 variations across that region.
In Western Europe, the symbol’s use was dwindling down before the modern era but there are examples such as the Swastika stone on Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire.
There are some people who think its ancient history can help revive the symbol in Europe as something positive. There is a tattoo parlor in Copenhagen that states that the Swastika is part of Norse mythology and Scandinavians do gravitate to it.
There is a day there called Learn to Love the Swastika Day. It is on November 13. This is where tattoo artists from around the world offer free swastikas to raise awareness of the symbol’s multicultural past.
“The swastika is a symbol of love and Hitler abused it. We’re not trying to reclaim to hakenkreuz. That would be impossible. Nor is it something we want people to forget. We just want people to know that the swastika comes in many other forms, none of which have ever been used for anything bad. We are also trying to show the right-wing facists that its wrong to use this symbol. If we can educate the public around the world of the true meanings of the swastika, maybe we can take it away from the fascists.”
A Holocaust survivor Freddie Knoller says,”For the people who went through the Holocaust, we will always remember what the swastika was like in our life- a symbol pure evil. We didn’t know how the symbol dates back so many thousands of years ago. But I think its interesting for people to learn that the swastika was not always the symbol of fascism.”