Illustration for article titled ‘I Am a Free Human Being’: White Protesters Hold Signs Comparing Slave Muzzling to Stay-at-Home Orders
Photo: Zach Gibson (Getty Images)

As protests over stay-at-home orders continue to pop up across the country, one thing becomes more and more evident: Some of these white people are racist AF. In California, at least two white women were caught on camera holding up protest signs that compared state ordinances meant to protect the public from a health crisis to the muzzling of enslaved people.


The Mercury News reports that two women who were participating in a stay-at-home protest in front of the Humboldt County courthouse on Friday held signs that showed the well-known drawing of Escrava Anastacia, an African woman who was enslaved in Brazil in the 19th century, accompanied by text that reads: “Muzzles are for dogs and slaves. I am a free human being.” Presumably, the muzzle Anastacia is wearing in the drawing is being compared to the face masks people are required to wear in public spaces in order to protect them from COVID-19 infection.

It didn’t take long for the photos to make the rounds on social media.


Sharrone Blanck, president of the local NAACP chapter, summed things up perfectly.

“The first issue is the fact that this person is equating dogs to enslaved people, specifically enslaved Africans,” Blanck said. “Then she identifies herself as a free human being — somehow above and better than people of African descent and people of color in general who were made to wear muzzles.”

One of the women, Gretha Stenger, offered an apology and explanation on Monday.

“Holding that sign up at the lockdown protest was a grave mistake and I ask forgiveness from all those who I have caused pain,” Stenger wrote. “As I had no sign of my own, it was handed to me by another protester and a photographer took the picture before I considered the racist implications. My intent was to take a stand for the freedom of all human persons and I mistakenly held a sign that conveyed the opposite. Please know that I respect the dignity of all people and I sincerely regret any suffering it has caused.”


The fact that Stenger can somehow see oppression in public health measures during an ongoing pandemic but didn’t immediately recognize the “racial implications” in the sign she was holding is very telling.

But at least she apologized.

I guess.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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