A hat shop owner in Nashville is apologizing after outrage over the store selling “not vaccinated” yellow stars, fashioned after the insignia Jews were forced to wear by Nazis, hit social media.
“HatWRKS,” the store that offered the item for $5, is run by haberdasher Gigi Gaskins. In an Instagram post, there was an “explanation” for why she compared unvaccinated people to Holocaust-era Jews.
“In NO WAY did I intend to trivialize the Star of David or disrespect what happened to millions of people,” read the unsigned apology post on the Instagram page of hatWRKS in Nashville. “My hope was to share my genuine concern & fear and to do all that I can to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.”
“I sincerely apologize for any insensitivity.”
A few guys are trading off holding this banner in front of #hatwrksnashville in Nashville.
Yesterday, the store owner posted on Instagram about selling gold stars reminiscent of the Star of David, that say “unvaccinated.”
I spoke to a few Jewish people today who were furious. pic.twitter.com/RnRZo2aOFk
— Chris Davis NC5 (@ChrisDavisMMJ) May 29, 2021
A statement against the stigma being slapped on people who choose not to get vaccinated is one thing. But comparing that stigma to the yellow star of David and the humiliation and degradation of European Jews is out of bounds. The analogy isn’t even in the same universe.
HatWRKS also came under fire for comparing COVID-19 vaccine passports to the Nazi practice of demanding Jews show “your papers,” and promoting a false conspiracy theory that claims vaccines contain microchips on its Instagram page.
Amid backlash, one of its partners, the John B Stetson Company, announced on Saturday night that it would be cutting off sales of its products to the store.
“As a result of the offensive content and opinions shared by HatWRKS in Nashville, Stetson and our distribution partners will cease the sale of all Stetson products,” the company wrote on Twitter.
Equally offensive may be the statement that replaced the star picture.
Before it apologized, hatWRKS had replaced the Instagram post showing off the badge on its account with an unsigned statement that said: “[P]eople are so outraged by my post … but are you outraged with the tyranny the world is experiencing?”
“[I]f you don’t understand what is happening, that is on you, not me. [I] pay much more respect to history by standing up with the fallen than offering silence & compliance,” the statement said. “[T]hat is the worse [sic] crime. [I]t was then & is now. [I] will delete your disgust and hope you put it where it belongs.”
Gaskins apparently attended the Trump rally prior to the riot breaking out on January 6. So did about 50,000 other people. It’s not her politics that should be at issue, but rather her morbidly exaggerated statement.
What the owner doesn’t understand is that there are ways to fight vaccine mandates that aren’t incendiary or hurtful.
A group of 117 unvaccinated staffers from Houston Methodist Hospital filed a lawsuit Friday seeking to avoid the hospital’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, saying it’s unlawful for bosses to require the shots.
The staffers join a growing list of employees challenging compulsory immunizations at businesses, colleges and other workplaces essential to the country’s reopening. Vaccine mandates have faced mounting resistance from anti-vaccination groups and some Republican politicians, even as health officials promote the proven safety of the vaccines and millions of Americans line up to get the shots every week.
Millions line up to get the shots every week…and millions choose not to. One choice is respected, even celebrated. The other is not. The reason people choose not to get vaccinated is not always “anti-science” or because of some brainless conspiracy theory about microchips. In fact, it’s no one’s business why someone chooses not to be vaccinated.
Forcing people to ingest anything for any reason is undemocratic. And people are fighting this notion that we should turn America into a two-tiered nation separating the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. If we’re going to dole out privileges and goodies and “passports” to those who’ve been vaccinated while denying them to those who haven’t, we will stratify society and create the conditions of inequality and encourage oppression.
The hat shop owner was dead wrong in her efforts to make a political statement. But so, too, are the mandate-lovers who just can’t seem to let go of the control they were given when the pandemic was at its height.