The wife of Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor said she was subjected to a racist verbal attack at a grocery store Sunday.
Gisele Barreto Fetterman, the wife of Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, said the incident happened when she went to buy some kiwis at a supermarket near her home outside Pittsburgh.
“I ran to the local grocery store and was met by and verbally assaulted by this woman who repeatedly told me I do not belong here,” she wrote on Twitter.
Fetterman is a Brazilian immigrant who was once undocumented. Fetterman, who recorded the incident from inside her car, said the attack began inside the store after the woman recognized her.
“She called me a thief and said I don’t belong here,” Fetterman told NBC News. “She said, ‘There’s that ‘N-word” Fetterman married.’”
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“Words really matter. I’ve had an entire career, I’m a citizen, I’m second lady, I’ve done all this work, and within seconds I was an 8-year-old little scared undocumented child again,” she said. “By the time I got to the car I was bawling and trying to compose myself and look strong, but I just don’t have it in me,” she said.
“The power that we hold — we can use that power to really lift people and help them, or we can use it to destroy them and break them. And why would we choose the destroying one?”
Fetterman, whose husband was elected in 2018, said the incident was an example of the division in her state and throughout the country.
“She is not representative of my country, of my residence, or my state. I’m confident of that. But her views still exist in my community. I don’t know if she raised kids or grandkids, but I have three young kids, and these ideas are gonna cross paths with them. We have to work to break these cycles of hatred in generations.”
Still, Fetterman said she wants the woman to be “met with compassion.” “I want her to have someone in her life who cares about her to say, ‘Is this how you are? Is this how you want to be? How did we get here?”
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., tweeted his support for Fetterman, writing Sunday evening: “It’s on us to teach our children kindness, acceptance and inclusion, and condemn hate whenever and wherever we see it.”