A Phoenix woman's story of teen girls making "swastika cupcakes" at a birthday party has gone viral, making headlines in Jewish news outlets and other news sites on Monday.
The Phoenix mom, a Jewish public-relations specialist who asked that her name not be published in this story (even though she was named in another publication), tells the Phoenix New Times that she was surprised by the sensationalized media coverage, but that the public can learn from the incident.
On November 20, she says, the morning after her 14-year-old daughter's birthday party, she learned that two of the girls at the party were responsible for creating the offensive cupcake, and that they'd uploaded a photo of it to Snapchat.
The swastika symbol was no big deal before World War II and was even featured on Arizona highway signs because of its use in Navajo culture. By making it the symbol of the Nazi regime, Adolf Hitler changed its perceived meaning from one of peace and good luck to that of modern-day evil.
Swastika-adorned cupcakes, coincidentally, are featured in Imperium, a recently released movie about neo-Nazis.
"It's not a hate crime," the woman says of the cupcake. Still, she was "pissed off."
She contacted the parents of the two teens and told them to check their kids' social-media accounts. Then, after pondering what to do, she shared the photo on Facebook — along with a lengthy comment about how the act was an all-too-personal example of the "awful" behavior seen these days. She since set the post to private, but provided New Times with a copy, along with the photo, which she says was taken by one of the girls at the party.
"This is not a political post, but i believe this has EVERYTHING to do with the political environment we're now living in," she wrote. "...I truly hope from the bottom of my heart that our prez elect can bring this cracked country together. Incidences of awful racist, misogynistic, anti-semetic [sic], etc. behavior are skyrocketing — you see it in posts that have been forwarded or news stories, but it always happens 'somewhere else' or 'not in my backyard'. Well how about it happening right in YOUR OWN HOUSE?"
Inthe post, she asked rhetorically why the two girls would create such a thing: "Is this funny? Is this right? Is this nice to do at another person's party in another person's house? Are the lids to human kindness and decency ripped off so permanently that this can happen to YOUR kid in YOUR house? Just something to think about and maybe have a discussion with your children about certain actions."
(See below for the entire November 20 post.)
The post was widely shared, resulting in a Channel 12 News (KPNX-TV) online article and broadcast piece by reporter Monique Griego on Sunday that was picked up by other news outlets the following day. The piece had a few exaggerations and errors, according to the Phoenix mom.
The party involved one cupcake, not "cupcakes," as the Channel 12 story relates. That mistake was picked up by other news outlets. Channel 12 also tweeted that the teens had brought the "swastika cupcakes" to the party — an incorrect detail also duplicated in various stories. One Jewish news site dubbed the small gathering "A Swastika Filled Party."
The mom also says Channel 12 did not speak with her, despite what news anchor Tram Mai suggests in the Sunday broadcast. (Griego reported the story from the point of view of a Facebook user who knows the woman and shared the photo.)
But she says the story is essentially true, and that it justifies a "teaching moment."
"This is not a political thing," the mom says of her post. "This is the environment we live in."
She talked to the parents of the ten or so teens at the party to apologize for what had happened and to discuss it with them. The girl most responsible for the cupcake said she did to be "funny" and apologized.
The woman says she thought "long and hard" before publishing her own post on social media. She wanted people to understand simply that it was "wrong" to make the cupcake, and for parents and teens to become more aware of what they publish on social media.
Carlos Galindo-Elvira, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Phoenix, says he doesn't care if it was "one cupcake or a dozen. Even the use of one swastika still represents a hate symbol.... It's profoundly insensitive. It represents something very ugly in world history."
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Below are the Phoenix mom's unedited November 20 posts about the cupcake incident, as she supplied them to New Times:
feeling pissed off [with emoticon]
November 20 at 10:33am
I thought long and hard about writing this, but you know, it's better to lose some aquaintences than remain silent. This is not a political post, but i believe this has EVERYTHING to do with the political environment we're now living in. I think everyone who knows me knows i don't "have an agenda". I'm not part of the mainstream media (who I love by the way if anyone is asking) and I truly hope from the bottom of my heart that our prez elect can bring this cracked country together. Incidences of awful racist, misogynistic, anti-semetic, etc. behavior are skyrocketing — you see it in posts that have been forwarded or news stories, but it always happens "somewhere else" or "not in my backyard". Well how about it happening right in YOUR OWN HOUSE? By your 14 year old daughter's "friends". At her own birthday party last night? At what should've been a really happy occassion, there were charades, name that tune games, a viewing of the Princess Bride, pizza, Polaroiding, gift opening and cupcake decorating. I was upstairs hiding with the dogs b/c I believe 14 year olds don't need to be babysat while putting sprinkles on cupcakes. Well, this apparently happened (I only found out about it this morning). Let me tell you that I am Jewish, my daughter is Jewish, there was another Jewish girl at the party as well as many other girls of different religions who don't have a negative bone in their bodies. But then there were the two girls who created this. Why? Is this funny? Is this right? Is this nice to do at another person's party in another person's house? Are the lids to human kindness and decency ripped off so permanently that this can happen to YOUR kid in YOUR house? Just something to think about and maybe have a discussion with your children about certain actions.
November 20 at 5:55pm ·
I am tired. This has been a long day for my family. I want to thank all my friends and friends of friends and complete strangers for sharing this story. I honestly believe this incident didn't stem from malice but ignorance and insensitivity (two things many teenagers are filled with!). May everyone who replied, responded and shared use this as a teaching moment for themselves and their kids and know we HAVE the ability and NEED to use it to make this world a better place for everyone.
November 21 at 1:55pm ·
I know many people are asking what happened after yesterday, so I hope this will suffice. I received wonderful feedback from each and every parent of the girls at the party fully underscoring that each family spoke at length with their daughters about the severity of the issue. My daughter spoke again with her friend who apologized profusely and told her she thought it was just "being funny" but understands that her actions weren't humorous in the slightest. I spoke with the school and they will be reaching out to all the teachers to relay to their students that hateful speech/actions/insignias will not be tolerated or condoned. Opening this hurtful incident up to others to provide a teaching moment will hopefully stop others from promoting ideas of hate is all I ever wanted. Happy early Thanksgiving to you and yours