A few months ago — probably even a few weeks ago — the question of whether you should or should not refuse service to nazis wasn’t something we were really planning on dealing with on a national level. Sure, the political climate was bad, the alt-right had become more emboldened, and racists (many of them weeping) were putting their hatred on display, but most of us hoped (wrongly, it seems) that shit would simply calm down, that the white supremacists would go home, and that we could all go back to having maybe one major crisis per day.
That all changed over the weekend. Nazis gathered, protested, held torches aloft, and eventually killed someone. And now the question of serving nazis isn’t simply academic anymore. It’s something all business-owners and employees have to deal with.
Let’s look at two incidents that happened this week. The first occurred on Sunday in Charlottesville, VA, when a group of nazis (we’re calling them that even if many outlets claim that they’re trolls) (take. nazis. seriously.) rolled into Ace Biscuit & Barbecue and started fomenting hate in full view of the owner, Brian Ashworth:
On Sunday, he says a group of four or five men and one woman came in wearing #MAGA apparel and shirts that said things like “Pinochet Helicopter Company” (a popular alt-right meme that’s a nod to Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who threw political opponents out of helicopters). He felt urged to turn them away, but he let them stay and eat anyway. He says they behaved themselves fine until the very end, when they were all outside smoking; they reportedly gave the Hitler salute in full view of Ace’s other customers. Ashworth lost it, telling them to leave, “admittedly in unkind words” that apparently involved a multitude of F-bombs.
Ashworth’s anger was met with threats and, at least according to latest reports, he’s terrified that these people — who threatened and slung anti-gay slurs at him — will return. Many people, upon reading this account, probably asked themselves “Is calling them out even worth it?” I know I did. That’s not because I condone nazis — I’m a Moldovan jew whose family had to flee the country due to anti-semitism — but because I don’t think of myself as a confrontational person. And because, like many, I’ve tried not to take the nazis who are coming out of the woodwork in the name of “white pride” and “protecting our heritage” seriously.
But that’s wrong. With these issues hitting the front page (and front pages around the world) we have to admit that nothing is small stakes anymore. And now — if you’ll allow me to be a little grandiose — is the time to stand up and be counted. You don’t have to punch nazis, but you’ve got to realize that you don’t have to serve them. And you don’t have to work with them, either.