Residents of the Great Neck Library district responded last week in the best way they could to a homophobic and racist verbal assault against trustee candidate Mimi Hu at a recent street fair. They voted.
More than 2,300 members of the library district, which covers all of Great Neck and part of New Hyde Park, cast ballots in an election won by Hu, Scott Sontag, Chelsea Sassouni and Josie Pizer.
The high turnout followed an attack against Hu, captured on social media, as she walked down Middle Neck Road with her 6-year-old son at the Great Neck Auto Fest and Street Fair.
Two women, Mersedeh Rofeim and Valerie Shalit, shouted at Hu that she was a “communist fascist” and asked her “Are you a man or a woman?”
Continuing the barrage, one said “take that s— to China,” referring to support for transgender people that Hu had expressed on social media.
Hu said this was the second time she was confronted that day.
When getting a coffee at Starbucks, she said, she was approached by Great Neck attorney Bob Unger, who told her she was not right in the head if she supported two men marrying one another.
To her credit, Hu said she did not believe the two women, who were standing in front of a Great Neck Republican Party table holding campaign signs for state Sen. Elaine Phillips and congressional candidate Dan DeBono, were involved with the campaign. She also said with midterm elections happening soon, she did want “this event to be politicized.”
This made perfect sense for a candidate running for a nonpartisan position of library trustee. Yes, library trustee.
What didn’t make sense was Great Neck Republican Chairman Michael Pulitzer’s response. Pulitzer first said that nobody from his Republican organization was involved in the incident. He then used Hu’s words to duck further comment, saying he did not want to “dishonor” Hu’s request.
Sorry, but when you are chairman of a political organization it is hard to argue that you don’t want something politicized during election time – especially when someone is attacked at a public event on grounds of sexual orientation and their country of origin.
Especially in 2018 when President Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s leader, has run a toxic campaign that includes attacks on people based on their skin color and sexual orientation.
Pulitzer also needed to do more in light of photographs found on DeBono’s Facebook page.
One is a group shot in which the two women are standing beside Phillips, DeBono and Great Neck Mayor Pedram Bral. The second is a picture of the two women flanking DeBono.
Hu said both Pulitzer and Phillips called to apologize to her about the incident.
Chris McKenna, a spokesman for the Phillips campaign, said Phillips “was nowhere near this incident and only learned of it later,” that the two women have no involvement in the Phillips campaign, and referred to Hu’s comments in refusing further comment.
But both Pulitzer and Phillips should have done more. They should have said that discrimination against anyone based on race, religion, and sexual and gender preference was never acceptable and had no place in any party.
They should have said loud and clear that verbally assaulting someone in a public place was unacceptable. But they didn’t.
This seems to help answer the question of what makes two people believe it is acceptable in 2018 to stand amid a crowd in the middle of Great Neck, which once served as a friendly home to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement, and shout homophobic and racist remarks to a woman running for library trustee with her 6-year-old son beside her?
Where is the fear of social condemnation?
The inescapable answer to why this is true is President Trump.
He began his 2016 political campaign by slandering undocumented Mexicans as “drug dealers, criminal, rapists” and called for a wall to be built along the Mexican border. He ended his campaign with a grainy video attacking globalists seeking to take American jobs away that showed the photos of three people – philanthropist George Soros, Goldman Sachs Chairman Lloyd Blankfein and then Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellin – all Jews.
These attacks and this divisive tone, which has also included blacks, the media, the Justice Department and U.S. intelligence services, has continued right through this election.
It is true that Trump did not invent bigotry and bias. But he is the first president to fan the flames in this way.
It is no coincidence that the bigotry demonstrated in Great Neck coincided with an ardent Trump supporter sending bombs to 12 Trump critics and the attack on a Jewish synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh that killed 11 people and injured six others, including police officers.
The attacker in Squirrel Hill cited as his motivation the caravan of mostly women and children 800 miles from our border, which Trump called an “invasion” and suggested was funded by Soros.
Great Neck Library district voters got it right when they responded to the assault by two women by supporting Hu.
That is a good start, but in these times not enough.
It is the responsibility of all of us to speak out against prejudice wherever we find it – lest it becomes the new normal and we all become complicit.