The restaurant made a donation after playing host to a white nationalist organization.
On Friday night, managers of a Washington, D.C., chain restaurant found themselves in an almost impossible situation.
The Maggiano’s location in D.C.’s Friendship Heights neighborhood played host to a group of people in town for a conference of white nationalists called the National Policy Institute (NPI). The group, which has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, espouses views that can only be described as racist and hateful.
Making matters worse, while at the restaurant, reality TV star Tila Tequila posted a picture to her Twitter account in which she and two friends did a Nazi salute. Tequila, whose Twitter account has since been suspended, has a history of anti-Semitic views and actions.
Where the NPI goes, protesters often follow — and understandably so.
NPI President Richard B. Spencer has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of anyone who isn’t white with European ancestry from the U.S. During the conference, held at the nearby Reagan Building, he recited Nazi propaganda in the original German and questioned whether Jews are people (spoiler alert: they are).
“Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” is how Richard B. Spencer greeted an audience of more than 200 attendees of an alt-right conference Washington D.C. He was met with enthusiastic cheers and Nazi salutes.
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Posted by The Atlantic on Monday, November 21, 2016
With a restaurant filled with white nationalists on the inside and a group of protesters on the outside, Maggiano’s closed shop a bit early.
In a statement condemning the NPI’s rhetoric, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum wrote:
“The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words. The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech.”
Hateful rhetoric and action has no place in this country or in this world. While so much of what what we see and hear lately comes through partisan, politicized filters, standing up to hate shouldn’t have to be.
Free speech is one thing, but allowing a space for hate speech is not the same thing. In fact, Maggiano’s initial response was a less-than-stellar nod toward a “free speech” defense.
“If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them,” philosopher Karl Popper wrote of the “tolerance paradox” back in his 1945 work “The Open Societies and Its Enemies.”
For Maggiano’s, there was the question of what to do with the money the restaurant made hosting the NPI dinner. On Monday, the restaurant announced a $10,000 donation to the Anti-Defamation League.
The Anti-Defamation League is a civil rights organization originally created to fight discrimination against Jews. While it has expanded in scope, that remains a core tenet of the group’s work. On Monday, Maggiano’s indicated that they would be donating that night’s profits to the ADL.
What happened at Maggiano’s serves as a blueprint for how businesses can respond to modern hate: denounce and donate.
The world is full of good people with good ideas. The world has a lot of love in it. Understandably, some people feel helpless in the election’s wake, but in truth there are things you can do to push back against bad things that are happening around us. Whether it’s donating to a civil rights organization or volunteering, there are still important things to be done to ensure that hateful ideas and actions are not simply accepted as a political “other side” but, rather, an unacceptable element of society.
This is a new, unprecedented era in America, and it’s likely we might all find ourselves accidentally involved in things or connected to things we don’t endorse. Now more than ever, it’s important to take steps to say “no” to hate.