As something of a jewelry hoarder, I'm always ducking into random accessory shops wherever I go. Especially in NYC, where there are so many cultures represented, from Arab to Asian and everything in between, it's cool to see all different types of cultural symbols in the form of dangly earrings or long pendants. But a certain pair of earrings that were recently for sale in a Brooklyn shop called Bejeweled were definitely not cool. They looked like straight-up Nazi swastikas.
When a city councilman noticed the earrings earlier this week, he raised his concerns about them with the owner of the store, Young Sook Kim. She replied that they had nothing to do with Nazis ... They're a sign of prosperity in Tibetan Buddhism. True, but also, too bad ... Swastika jewelry, no matter its intended meaning, will never be acceptable in the U.S.
Truthfully, part of me does feel bad that this woman and those who would want to wear the Tibetan Buddhist sign of prosperity can't, because it looks so similar to the Nazi symbol, but at the same time, that's just too darn bad. When a symbol is more universally recognized as something so horrific, we can't help but see it that way.
To be fair and thorough, I did a little bit of quick research and found that the Buddhist swastika is almost always clockwise, whereas the one adopted by the Nazis is counterclockwise. So, technically, we should be able to tell the difference, but that difference, unfortunately, is far too subtle.
In the end, it's not a matter of ignorance or insensitivity to another culture -- it's about perception. These earrings only look like one thing to most people in the Western world: A sign of extreme hate and genocide. Sure, Eastern cultures that instead see it as a symbol of auspiciousness and good fortune certainly have a right to be ticked off that the Nazis co-opted it, but that's reality. Allowing the symbol, which would be perceived as hateful by most Americans, remain in that store would have just been wrong.
Do you agree the earrings should be been banned?
Image via Larry Johnson/Flickr