Attacking Bigotry Starts With Us

Here’s a crime story you likely didn’t hear about. It happened in the New York City subway. But it is not the hate-filled crime that matters as much as the response to it by a group of total strangers who happened to file into a particular subway car on a wintry-cold Saturday night.

As the subway doors whooshed shut and riders settled into their seats one after another spotted the vile graffiti splayed throughout the car. A silent shock set in. A black marker had been used to deface the Plexiglas-framed subway maps displayed throughout the car. The ugly scrawls appeared on windows and doors as well.

“Jews belong in the oven,” read one ugly message. Another proclaimed, “Destroy Israel, Heil Hitler.” And swastikas – that instantly recognized symbol of pure evil – punctuated the entire space.

The crime was not reported to police, there were no TV cameras around to capture what happened next. Only the Facebook posts by two of the passengers memorialized the citizen’s brigade that instantly formed to erase the indignity,

Gregory Locke, 27, a young lawyer with a New York City law firm and Jared Nied, 36, a sous chef at a trendy downtown French Bistro snapped a few quick photos with their cell phones and then got to work.

“The train was silent as everyone stared at each other, uncomfortable and unsure what to do,” Locke wrote later on his Facebook page. “One guy got up and said, ‘Hand sanitizer gets rid of Sharpie. We need alcohol.’”

That man was Jared Nied who told me that at his restaurant, “We usually use the first aid wipes or vodka” to erase Sharpie ink, “but I realized hand sanitizer would work just as well.”

Immediately this train full of strangers — male and female, young and older, black, white, Hispanic and Asian — came together to make things right. This being cold and flu season the solution was close at hand. Bottles of Purell appeared from purses and pockets along with mounds of tissues.

The photos captured both the horrid scribbles as well as the Good Samaritans who smeared sanitizer onto the offensive spots and scrubbed until they disappeared. Chef Nied, who posted a close-up of the “Destroy Israel” graffiti, said there were about 40 people inside that subway car.

“Pretty much everybody helped in some way or another,” he said, “If not actually scrubbing, then offering tissues or Purell or pointing out graffiti that we had missed.” He told me they got the entire car cleaned in “less than five minutes.”

Lawyer Locke took a picture of Nied, still bundled up in his winter parka, studiously rubbing out the phrase, “…belong in an oven.” Other photos showed other riders pitching in too.

Gregory Locke was interviewed days later on local New York TV

Later, still flush from the event Nied wrote me, “Never in a million years did I think anybody would record my moment … I’m honestly not sure what to say other than that I was just doing the right thing, the thing that needed to be done.”

Locke’s Facebook post that night included some of the sparse conversation from inside the subway car.

“’I guess this is Trump’s America,’ said one passenger. No sir, it’s not,” Locke wrote. “Not tonight and not ever. Not as long as stubborn New Yorkers have anything to say about it.”

Locke’s Facebook Post from Sat, Feb. 4, 2017

Note that even though anti-Semitism has been around for centuries and our 45th president has grandchildren being raised in the Jewish faith so many of us automatically resort to the political blame game at every affront. This isn’t any one person’s America!  It belongs to all of us and it is what we – collectively – make of it.

Oh, how I wish a sky full of sanitizer could drench us all and erase the ugliness of our times, saturate away all those pithy, partisan barbs so many toss at those who hold differing viewpoints. These misplaced snipes do no common good. They only sow more discontent and anger. It is such a destructive cycle.

I’m betting that the young African American woman captured in a photo wearing white mittens and rubbing hate off the subway window that night had little idea about the political leanings of anyone in that subway car. Politics didn’t matter at that moment. The riders found a common enemy in the bigot who had been there before them and instinctively attacked it – together.

It is odd to me that in a country birthed upon the ideals of equality, freedom of thought and expression we have become so divisive, so intolerant of each other. These days we are less “the United States of America” and more “the United States of Squabble.” By all means, protest an issue but make sure it is something concrete and not just a perceived problem.

The lesson we could take away from what happened inside that speeding subway train on a wintry-cold February night is profound. Working together Americans can do just about anything.






  1. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Noozhawk Reader Rabbi Schlomo Platinumstein writes:

    We need to stop all the hate. What a great mixing pot of people New York was when I was a young adolescent. Nothing taste as great as a New York Bagel, delicious.

    • Vickie Vertel on February 13, 2017 at 1:47 pm


  2. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Judy Bartl writes:

    Thank you so much, Diane Diamond. I think that we are all so weary of the blame game. This wonderful episode of humanity shows that we can fight back and truly make our country what it aspires to be.
    David Frank, Judy Bartl

  3. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader George Oppenheimer writes:

    While resident in Bucks County, PA, during the period 1985-2004, I was active as the Citizens Crime Commission of Bucks County, during which time we brought together legislators, police chiefs, addiction counselors, school counselors, victims rights organizations, inmates’ families organizations, interfaith clergy organizations, psychologists, psychiatrists, neighborhood watch groups, chambers of commerce, and the governing board and warden of the county corrections system. Meeting together at monthly luncheon meetings, we evolved a common approach to reducing crime by developing childhood prevention programs, addiction treatment programs, and many other activities. Our county jail became an educational institution that taught courses to complete inmates’ high school diplomas, involved vocational instructors to give training in a number of fields, etc. Crime rates plunged as a result.

  4. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Judy Pederson French writes:

    Dear Diane Dimond,

    What an excellent article! It did my heart good to read about the union of strangers coming together on the train. Strangers, yes, but they were like minded about the intent of evil they were looking at. With no questions asked, thay had a common goal to wipe away the hateful imageries, and they did it in minutes. Kudos to all passengers!

    Thank you for the much needed uplift. Trudy Pedersen French

  5. sherman mays on February 13, 2017 at 1:13 pm


  6. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Facebook Friend Dina Monaco-Boland writes:

    Thank you for sharing. No, I had not heard about this and it’s beautiful. I’ll be sharing it as well.

  7. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Facebook Friend Marc Brewer writes:

    I like all pitched in to clean it up. team work !

  8. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Facebook Friend William King writes:

    This has made my whole day. Great way to start the week!!!

  9. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Facebook Friend Sally Kellogg writes:

    Thank you. I love your approach to the actual events and how you are able to show people that the Strife is pointless, especially if we are able to utilize integrity and righting the wrongs of a selfish member of a community by standing to Correct something meant to Harm or Intimidate or Bully. Thanks.

  10. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Twitter Pal vickie vertel@vvertel writes:

    @DiDimond @ShareThis Love you Diane!! Such a great article!Such great American spirit!! There is more good in this world than evil.

  11. Diane Dimond on February 13, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Twitter Pal Bob Burtis@bob_burtis writes:

    @DiDimond Diane a lot of this (divisiveness) is funded by George Soros. Russia and Hungary have issued bounties. I hope the USA will soon.

  12. Michael Britt on February 13, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    As a college professor I try my best to stay away from discussing politics, but this event on the subway made it impossible. Not only did I talk about it in class from a psychological perspective, but I also blogged about what I saw as the psychological perspectives on how people can come together like this. I was moved and proud to hear about this story. We talk about it in schools across the country.

    • Diane Dimond on February 18, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      Mr. Britt,
      Your comment warms my heart. Just imagine what could happen if we all acted like that group of strangers on the subway? Okay, what if only half of us acted like that – for the betterment of all. Thank you for teaching the way you do! ~ DD

  13. Diane Dimond on February 14, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Facebook Friend Robert Zuckerman writes:

    A melting pot needs all the ingredients except rotten eggs

  14. Diane Dimond on February 18, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Ellen Swain writes:

    Hi, Diane, Greetings from New Mexico. We no longer receive newspapers in our part of the world, and I’m not into reading newspaper “on-line (yet), but recently a dear friend went to Santa Fe and brought me The Albuquerque Journal. It was so good to hold a newspaper again! (I taught English for thirty-eight years!) Your essay about “confronting bigotry…” affirmed my hope in the human race, yet our population without such ethics and morality overwhelms me. I am a pastor, and mostly I believe what I preach falls on deaf ears, although I will say, we have a few that reach out with dignity and confidence in the love that Jesus Christ makes available to all. I’m so glad that you shared this narrative. Blessings to you, Ellen Swain

    P.S. I go to Albuquerque next week and can’t wait to pick up a JOURNAL

Leave a Comment