I’m writing as an activist and human, with what I assume to be human morals. The newspaper recently published a column by Sam Shain discussing the controversy involving Slates restaurant in Hallowell (“Sam Shain: Slates story shows hatred spreading to the left,” Aug. 12). I’d like to dig into what he think happened.

Shain started his column with an example of the peace-loving attitude of Wendy Larson, owner of Slates. I have no doubt she really did help a prejudiced vandal come around over a decade ago. I fully believe and even appreciate that Larson’s a strong supporter for LGBT people in her community.

That being said, that says nothing about how she tackles issues such as anti-racism; you can be against homophobia and still be a bad ally for people of color.

Shain seems to suggest that Larson was just caught in the crossfire, targeted by both sides for no reason. I’d like to provide a brief timeline that includes some truths Shain’s column left out.

Mackenzie Swift was a hard-working employee for Slates who recently got promoted. She, in her own time, engaged in activism, including making everyone on her Facebook friend’s list aware of a group called Maine For Mainers.

This group is full of racist, anti-immigrant talk, with members who include people ousted from jobs for their white supremacy, and others who’ve declared that, “White Supremacist isn’t a slur, it’s a badge of honor.” Swift wanted to make sure everyone knew what Maine For Mainers stood for, and who was in it. She also created a counter group called Maine For Everyone, where people discuss anti-racism work in Maine, while making sure minorities know they have support here.

Swift’s work got the attention of Maine For Mainers, who encouraged members to try and get Swift fired from her job. Maine For Mainers members contacted Slates and told Larson they felt unsafe going there as long as Swift remained employed.

Swift asked Larson to give her the names and evidence of people targeting her so she could take measures to protect herself, because in addition to contacting her work, Maine For Mainers members threatened to show up while she worked and threatened her children. Swift exposed a ring of white supremacists, and assumed she’d be supported in those efforts.

Instead, Swift was met with resentment and threats of being fired. Larson refused to tell Swift who said what, and demanded she delete anything exposing Maine For Mainers, along with deleting Maine For Everyone.

After Swift exposed Larson’s complicity in Maine For Mainers’ terror tactics and failure to provide a safe work environment, Larson made the Facebook post referenced in Shain’s column. Larson beat around the bush and said she welcomes diversity.

I wonder if she dreams of a world where people of color and LGBT people can frolic in a field with the very people who want them dead? Is that true diversity? I hope not. I hope wishing for the death or subjugation of those unlike you is easy to denounce. I hope “I hate Nazis” isn’t a radical statement, because if you don’t hate them, it’s not hard to see you at the table with them.

Shain also justified Larson’s claim to NewsCenter Maine that she welcomes even white supremacists by saying it’s impossible to tell who believes what because you simply can’t know on sight. But Larson already has lists of those who contacted her, 12 to 15 pages worth, according to Hallowell police. She chose not to use it; that’s something worth being angry about.

Shain is an English teacher. I remember learning about the Holocaust in English class, reading stories about those forced into camps who were traumatized and killed. I’d be interested to see him talk to a survivor, or the family of those lost, and tell them why he and Larson believe they should eat food right next to the same kind of people who, 74 years ago, would be laughing as they starved to death.

Shain ended his column by saying he’d love to join us when we “realize our mistakes” and hop back onto a more peaceful track. Well, even if we did take a more “peaceful” approach to Nazis, it’s very bold of him to assume he’d be invited to join us anyways.

Phoenix Golden is a resident of Augusta.

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