Pennsylvania's second lady urges compassion after racist attack

Maggie Kent Image
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Pennsylvania's second lady urges compassion after racist attack
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Pennsylvania's second lady says she was the target of a hateful verbal attack, in which she was called a racial slur.

ALLEGHENY COUNTY, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Pennsylvania Second Lady Gisele Barreto Fetterman is going public after being verbally accosted at a Pittsburgh-area supermarket on Sunday.

Gisele is married to Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman.

"The same way things are learned, to hate or love, they can be unlearned too. We can learn new things," she said.

She usually has state trooper security but thought nothing of quickly popping into the grocery store alone for one item.

As she waited in line to check out a woman entered the store, recognized her, and began cursing at her. Then she followed Fetterman out into the parking lot.

"I was able to switch the camera (on) and I caught the very final end of what was an ongoing rant. With the same things, the same messaging that 'I don't belong here,' 'that I'm the n-word that Fetterman married,' that I'm a thief, and all these horrible things," said Fetterman.

At the time, Fetterman said she was only thinking about getting away from the angry woman.

"I'm not quick on my feet, I don't like confrontation, so nothing came out of my mouth. Probably just some tears came out of my eye," she recounted.

Now with some time to reflect she is speaking, and sharing the story on social media.

She shared this text along with a tweet of the video:

"Finally captured it after crying winded down. This behavior and this hatred is taught. If you know her, if she is your neighbor or relative, please, please teach her love instead."

Fetterman says she recognizes her visibility is elevated because of her position, but she understands she isn't alone in being targeted as "other."

"I love this country, I love where I live, she doesn't represent the majority. But, in those moments, with her words, I was again a nine-year-old undocumented kid. Kind of frozen in time," she said.

Her message: hate is learned, but so is love.

"What I ask is that she be met with compassion. If there is someone in her life who loves her - and maybe there isn't, some people don't have love in their lives - that they try to work with her and this can be a moment of change," says Fetterman.

State police are investigating.

In a statement, Gov. Tom Wolf said:

"The ethnic intimidation and racist speech spewed at the Second Lady of Pennsylvania is shameful and unacceptable. Racism and hate speech are always unacceptable and unworthy of Pennsylvanians. No Pennsylvanian should ever be made to feel unwelcome in our commonwealth because of their race or ethnicity.

Gisele Fetterman spends much of her time devoted to 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.

"The Second Lady has my and Frances's full support and gratitude for her tireless work to make Pennsylvania the diverse, inclusive place it is today, even in the face of such ignorance and adversity."