Pennsylvania’s second lady said she was left shaking and in tears after being berated by a racist customer at a supermarket this weekend.
Gisele Barreto Fetterman, who is the wife of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), was waiting in the checkout line of an Aldi’s near Braddock, Pennsylvania, on Sunday evening when she says a woman confronted her and began hurling bigoted epithets in her direction.
“She said, ‘There’s that N-word that Fetterman married. You don’t belong here,’” Fetterman told The Washington Post in an interview published Monday. “I was just kind of frozen in that moment. I was shaking. I was so nervous.”
A Brazilian native and former undocumented immigrant who became a U.S. citizen 11 years ago, Fetterman said the verbal assault continued after she exited the store and returned to her car. Using her cellphone, she managed to capture a short video showing the woman calling her by the racial slur, which she then posted to Twitter.
As of Monday afternoon, the clip had been viewed more than 245,000 times.
*TRIGGER WARNING* I love love love this country but we are so deeply divided. I ran to the local grocery store and was met by and verbally assaulted by this woman who repeatedly told me I do not belong here. The confrontation continued into the parking lot where I was able to pic.twitter.com/kzSoxCVJ2x
— Gisele Barreto Fetterman (@giselefetterman) October 11, 2020
“This behavior and this hatred is taught,” Fetterman wrote in a second tweet. “If you know her, if she is your neighbor or relative, please, please teach her love instead.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday condemned the incident as “shameful and unacceptable,” adding, “No one should ever be made to feel unwelcome in our commonwealth because of their race or ethnicity.”
“Gisele Fetterman spends much of her time making our state and world a better place and she — and every Pennsylvanian — deserves our respect, not the hatred too often displayed by people who seek only to further divide this country at a time when unity is so desperately needed,” he wrote on Twitter.
Sen. Bob Casey (D) echoed those sentiments, noting, “It’s on us to teach our children kindness, acceptance and inclusion, and condemn hate whenever and wherever we see it.”
Shortly before Fetterman turned 8 years old, her mother brought her brother and her from Rio de Janeiro to New York in 1990. She became a legal U.S. resident in 2000 and a citizen in 2009, one year after marrying her husband.
A mother of three, Fetterman said that while she’s no stranger to online racism, the incident was the first time she’d been verbally attacked in person.
She told The Philadelphia Inquirer she believes those with bigoted views may be feeling energized because of President Donald Trump, who has been known to engage in racist and sexist verbal attacks against his opponents.
“We see folks in high positions acting a certain way, then maybe that emboldens,” she said. “I don’t know if there’s more of this now or it’s just more public now. The fact that people have such a blind hatred for what’s different is scary.”
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