A man called a local public health officer “Aunt Jemima” at a meeting of the San Diego Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and refused to apologize when one supervisor intervened.
The man, who identified himself as Jason Robo, used the term to describe County Public Health Officer Dr. Wilma Wooten, who is a Black woman. Robo also insulted a supervisor’s body.
Aunt Jemima was a well-known brand and logo used by Quaker Oats until it was retired in 2020. The character was based on a stereotypical ‘mammy’ figure—an offensive depiction of a Black woman in a subservient role.
Robo introduced himself to “ladies, gentlemen, traitors” when he began to speak before making a joke about the serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
He then criticized the supervisors and the pharmaceutical industry. Robo spoke to the supervisors by name, referring to Supervisor Nora Vargas’ weight, and calling for them to resign and die.
“And then Wooten, you’re f***ing Aunt Jemima,” Robo said. He continued to speak but Vargas jumped in to respond to Robo’s comments by telling him he could not use that term to describe Wooten.
“I’m sorry, you are not allowed to say that to her,” Vargas said. “You are not allowed to say that to her. You can call me fat all you want but you are not allowed to say that to her.”
Vargas asked Robo to apologize but he responded by calling her a “piece of furniture” and saying a chair had more intelligence. Robo did not apologize.
Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher was briefly out of the room during the exchange between Robo and Vargas but returned just before Vargas said: “You are not allowed to talk to her that way. No. Absolutely not. Not under my f***ing watch.”
By that time, Robo’s time had expired and Fletcher asked him to sit down. Robo is an aspiring comedian, according to a report from San Diego’s KPBS.
More than 60 people spoke at the meeting and Tuesday with most of the speakers against COVID-19 vaccinations. The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to keep a vaccine mandate for new employees.
The meeting was tense and at one point Fletcher had another person removed from the room for interrupting proceedings. The supervisors were also heckled by some of those in attendance.
Fletcher addressed the room and discussed the behavior at recent meetings. Public meetings, including school board meetings, have recently become flashpoints in arguments about COVID-19 vaccines and mask mandates, with comments from some members of the public quickly going viral.
“So much of what these meetings have devolved into is this type of sport or game to see how vulgar or outrageous or offensive you can be,” Fletcher said. “It’s vile, and it’s disgusting, and it’s outrageous and it contributes nothing to what we’re doing.”