Hanover County Public Schools Superintendent Michael Gill apologized on Wednesday for a logo on t-shirts his organization had distributed to participants in a conference earlier this week.
While county school officials did not catch the swastika-ish appearance of their new logo unveiled at their professional learning conference for faculty and staff and printed on shirts for them to wear, folks on the social networks caught on pretty quickly.
Rachel Anne Levy, teacher, parent, and a candidate this November for the Virginia House of Delegates, was one of the early ones, tweeting: “Yes, I have seen the Hanover Schools new swastika-like logo. Sigh. Let’s hope an explanation and apology comes soon.”
Many similar demands for an apology and the removal of the offensive t-shirts followed. Gil first tried to explain the logo was meant “to represent four hands and arms grasping together – a symbol of unity for our all at the county professional learning conference. Nothing more.”
But he soon gave in to the torrent of criticism and issued a mea culpa online:
“We are writing today in response to concerns that have been raised regarding the logo that has been used during this week’s Unified Professional Learning Conference. One of our teachers designed the logo intending for it to represent four hands and arms grasping together – a symbol of unity for our all-county professional learning conference. Nothing more. While we are confident that the logo was created without any ill-intent, we understand that this has deeply upset members of our staff and community who see the logo as resembling a swastika. We have stopped distributing the t-shirts that include the logo, and we are working to remove it from all conference materials.
“We are deeply sorry for this mistake and for the emotions that the logo has evoked by its semblance to a swastika and, by extension, to the atrocities that were committed under its banner. Unquestionably, we condemn anything associated with the Nazi regime in the strongest manner possible.”
In late July, we ran a similar story of misunderstood logos about a school district in suburban Atlanta that was forced to redo its logo after complaints that the image resembled the Nazi eagle (Georgia School District Pulls New Logo After Nazi Eagle Comparisons).
Now, please look again at the two images above, the logo on the left and the actual, Nazi swastika on the right. Do they really look more than slightly alike? For one thing, the logo turns from right to left, while the Nazi symbol goes left to right. Are we now banning shapes that look Nazi to someone online?
Apparently, we are. In October 2013, Manchester United, one of England’s greatest soccer clubs, had to apologize for this proposed logo:
The swastika was even used as a Jewish symbol in ancient synagogues, such as the one uncovered in an Ein Gedi synagogue’s mosaic.
And in 2019, this ride in a German amusement park was shut down because it resembled the dreaded swastika.
The swastika, according to Buddhist lore, was stamped on Gautama Buddha’s chest by his initiates after his death. They call it “The Heart’s Seal” and decorate their homes and temples with it. Do I sense a ban coming?
Antisemitism is real and scary, and we must resist it politically, socially, and most important, legally. The swastika, which was used by the Nazis to depict their Teutonic heritage, did not stand before that era for antisemitism or Nazism. It’s a shape.