Earlier tonight, I was reading some stuff on my dashboard on Tumblr. I saw someone leave not one, but three anonymous comments about being offended by Brittany posting a gif from the movie American History X. The person was initially offended by it because in the gif, Edward Norton’s character was shirtless and exposing his Swastika tattoo. (He was also waving a gun around, but I guess that wasn’t offensive.) When Brittany tried to explain it, the person still held said that they were offended. They explained it by saying that they were Jewish and that was why they were offended. I’m trying to understand that.
I get that some people have things that upset them. I know that the Holocaust is a very upsetting thing to think about. I also know that if the anonymous person had checked the notes on that gif, then they would have seen it was from a movie. If they’d look long enough, they would have seen that it was from American History X. But they chose not to. If they had done some research on the movie, then they might have seen that this was a movie that was extremely compelling and isn’t glamorizing hatred or racism. They would have also learned that the movie was one that director Tony Kaye, who is also Jewish, fought very hard to make. He put down his own money. He also got into skirmishes with the distributor about what should and shouldn’t be in the movie. Movies like American History X are lessons to those of us who didn’t live through the Holocaust and didn’t see the horrors that were inflicted upon people because of race, religion, heritage, sexuality, etc. by the Nazis. It is there as a lesson for people who don’t notice the ongoing struggles in the world between people who are stuck in an “us vs. them” mentality.
As for the anonymous questioner being offended simply by the image of a Swastika and their refusal to accept that it has a deeper meaning than just its use in Nazi Germany, they need to do research there as well. The Swastika predates the Nazis by around five thousand years. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
The swastika has an extensive history. It was used at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being.” The motif (a hooked cross) appears to have first been used in Neolithic Eurasia, perhaps representing the movement of the sun through the sky. To this day it is a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Odinism. It is a common sight on temples or houses in India or Indonesia. Swastikas also have an ancient history in Europe, appearing on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures.
A person wearing a Swastika doesn’t have to be a racist. They could be displaying an ancient good luck symbol or an ancient symbol for their religion. We shouldn’t be afraid of Swastikas because of how they were misused by Hitler and his cohorts. Sometimes people are so quick to be offended that they miss out on what is actually there. It’s okay to be offended when racism occurs. It’s even okay to check and see if someone is being racist, but people shouldn’t persist in stereotyping them as doing something wrong when it becomes clear that they don’t deserve it.
More Information on Swastikas: