Apologies And Uncomfortable Conversations Are the Way Forward

by Leticia Remauro

I recently apologized for comparing Mayor de Blasio to Hitler when several dozen deputy sheriffs were sent to guard the door to Mac’s Public House in Staten Island after that business was closed for what most agree have been inconsistent and arbitrary coronavirus regulations.

The analogy was made with the hope that the New York City Sheriff Department would follow the lead of Genesee County Sheriffs and others who refused to carry out orders which they felt were infringing on the rights of citizens. I was referring to the actions of indecisive leaders who nevertheless insist on absolute compliance and who bristle at any criticism.  

I used hurtful language for which I sincerely apologize.

There is never an appropriate comparison to be made to either Hitler or Nazi Germany. What I said is not reflective of anything I feel or think about the horrors of the holocaust or the enduring trauma impacting survivors and subsequent generations, or the vital forever necessity of holocaust education.

My Jewish friends, family and some community leaders have forgiven me for my insensitivity. I am grateful. I continue to reach out to many others to apologize personally and to listen.

Growing up in New York City as a child who wore a brace on her leg to correct a physical infirmity, my parents taught me to ask questions of people who were different from me to learn about their heritage, religion, sexual orientation or physical disability. My parents wanted others to ask me about my brace instead of assuming about any limitations on my capacity to play or work. Mom and Dad taught me that ignorance breeds bigotry. Some still treated me differently because of the brace on my leg, but I only experienced true bigotry when my parents moved us to Florida in the 1970s. I was ostracized and shunned because I was Italian. Those years embedded in me the awareness that only through education and experience can we overcome prejudice.

I’ve been back in Staten Island for 40 years now. I share close friendships with people of diverse cultures and I immerse myself in organizations that promote equality for all. When I am not sure of something, I ask questions. Until recently those questions were accepted as a sign of respect, but in the era of the social media mobs, those questions are now considered insensitive and – because I am a high profile Republican, and because of language used at a protest- I am now labeled as a hater.

My 40 years on Staten Island have allowed me to be involved in so many wonderful civic efforts and to become close with so many diverse families. I have served in leadership positions on cultural boards and am blessed to be active with Native American, Jewish, Turkish, Albanian, Russian, Greek, Pakistani, Italian, African American and LGBT groups who want to build a better community on Staten Island.

Speaking up can be precarious because you run the risk of offending people. But if we don’t, we fade into the background and can’t get anything done. When Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio are able to hand down edicts of questionable motive and dubious foundation with no opposing points of view being heard, I speak up.

People are complex. Judging them by their race, religion, sexual orientation, physical limitations or by their politics or neighborhood is itself bigotry – period. If the social media mob would instead allow us to ask questions and have uncomfortable conversations without condemnation, perhaps we could come together around our common goals to reduce bigotry through education.

Did I misspeak? Absolutely. Am I sorry? Sincerely and forever. Is there an effort underway to censor Staten Island? You bet there is and I’ll always speak up and organize against that.

Leticia Remauro is a Republican candidate for Staten Island Borough President, and the former Chairwoman of the Staten Island Republican party.