Two incidents in recent days make it clear that the Madison area is not immune to the uptick in incidents of racism and hate speech seen nationwide following the election of Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, a Fitchburg resident of Indian descent received a handwritten, profanity-laced letter declaring “Trump won” and telling her that her family and another family were no longer welcome at the West Side Swim Club.
The other family referenced in the letter is the Ketarkus family, a white couple with 11 adopted children of color. The letter follows several incidents of apparently bias at the swim club over the summer.
“We had called to attention some words that were not appropriate for the summer swim season,” said Becky Ketarkus, including several white youth swimmers declaring that any people of color at the swim club must be there on scholarship.
“It was dealt with beautifully at a team level. It was just handled with such intention,” Ketarkus said. “Obviously the message didn’t make it to some of the people who needed it most.”
The woman who received the letter, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she took the letter to the Fitchburg police and then called Ketarkus to let her know the Ketarkus family had been mentioned. The note appears to reference the families’ complaints about biased behavior over the summer.
Ketarkus says she has “no earthly clue” whether the note was written by a youth swimmer or a parent.
West Side Swim Club did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but club president Connie Chesnick told NBC15 that the club would investigate whether the note came from a member, and if it did, that member would no longer be welcome at the club.
In a separate incident over the weekend, Nazi-inspired graffiti appeared at Oneida Park in Monona, apparently in response to the election of Donald Trump as president.
Monona Mayor Bob Miller confirmed that he had ordered the graffiti removed, and Monona Parks and Recreation staff confirmed that the graffiti was gone as of Monday afternoon.
A user of the local blog NextDoor first reported the graffiti, which included a crudely-drawn Swastika and the name “Trump” on a sidewalk and on several pieces of playground equipment, as well as a small swastika carved into a picnic table.
“I think it was actually anti-Trump equating him as a Nazi,” Miller wrote in an email to Madison365. “It looked like kid writing.”
Still, he said, “I find this kind of behavior and display reprehensible. Monona should not and will not tolerate this vandalism.”
“It is disturbing to see this imagery, especially in light of the election this past week,” wrote Monona resident Chris Walker on his blog, Political Heat. “White supremacy, whether the pundits will acknowledge it or not, played a big role in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. And it’s not just something that’s apparent in certain areas — it’s in local communities, even in liberal Dane County.”
Incidents of racism and hate crimes have risen across the country since Trump won the presidency last week, as reported in numerous media outlets. The Southern Poverty Law Center said more than 200 incidents had been reported by Sunday.
Ketarkus said no one should really be surprised.
“Yes there is a huge uptick in this since the election, but it didn’t start just now,” she said. “We’ve been dealing with this since July. I’m not the person to tell anyone, ‘Oh my God, this is shocking. I can’t believe this is happening.’ My kids were not shocked. They were all like, ‘Yep.’”
Ketarkus also said she’s hesitant to try and organize a community response to these events specifically.
“There are already a thousand different events,” she said. “Start there and listen. If this letter helps amplify anything that is already helping what’s already happening, I’m all for using it as a tool. I don’t want to overshadow anything that’s already happening with my whiteness. We have great leaders in Madison. Listen, and go and talk to them.”