Aberdeen history professors let us down in today’s paper. First, Presentation College history prof Brad Tennant says the six swastikas painted around Aberdeen last week are just property damage, not white supremacist agitprop:
When it comes to the recent vandalism in Aberdeen, Tennant said, residents have no way of knowing what was going through the mind of the person who painted the symbols. There’s no context, just a swastika painted on a wall.
“It’s just plain property damage,” he said.
While the swastika has a history that’s both positive and negative, Tennant said, graffiti on the side of a building is not positive.
“It’s a statement,” he said. “Either a racial statement or something else” [Elisa Sand, “Swastika Use Today Represents White Supremacy, Professors Say,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.05.04].
No context? We live in a time and place where the swastika is universally recognized as a symbol of evil. We aren’t talking about the 90-year-old pre-World War II Native American symbols worked into the brick and tile of the Hotel Alex Johnson. We are talking about some punk who wanted to torque people off. He (yes, I’m assuming young and male) could have chosen any number of other graphics to rile the public—horned demons, f-words, middle fingers, penises, doobage, peace signs, Muslim stars and crescents. Instead, Herr Schpraymeister reached for the obvious go-to symbol of racial and religious hate. Even if our graffitist is just young and stupid, the only reason the swastika echoes in his young and stupid noggin is his absorption of willingness to ape cultural expressions of bigotry. He didn’t just damage property—he spread hate.
(Stay tuned for history prof error #2 in my next blog post!)