Last month, our news outlet published an interview with a small business owner in downtown Columbia, South Carolina discussing the pressures the coronavirus pandemic had placed on her and her retail establishment. Over the weekend, we did another report on a small business in the Pee Dee region of the state – one struggling with unfair enforcement of emergency edicts issued in the wake of the pandemic.
We believe it is important to tell these stories … and share these perspectives.
So, how do we describe the story that has suddenly enveloped Katie Shields?
Unlike the others, that’s for sure …
Shields is the owner of Mylkbar – a successful salon in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Earlier this month, she posted on her personal Instagram page of her interest in co-hosting a “Keep America Great” boat rally on May 23, 2020 (Memorial Day weekend).
While we are no longer in the business of defending U.S. president Donald Trump (owing to his many fiscal failures), we do not believe he is a racist. Nor have we ever believed that. Certainly, we do not believe supporting Trump is evidence of racism – or that all (or even most) of his supporters are racist.
Nonetheless, many believe this unswervingly …
Shortly after Shields posted on Instagram, another local business owner in the Charleston area accused her of being “racist and greedy if you still support (Trump).” Meanwhile, a Lowcountry radio host – Tamika Gadsden – excoriated Shields over her proposed boat rally, calling her “reprehensible” and referring to her as the “face of white supremacy” in the Charleston area.
“In Charleston you learn, fairly quickly, that the face of White Supremacy resembles that of the boutique-owning, gatekeeping glitterati,” she tweeted.
This news outlet reached out to Shields over the weekend hoping to get her thoughts on the situation. Luckily for our readers, she was kind enough to take the time to respond to our questions.
Below, in its entirety, is that conversation …
Before we get into everything that’s happened, tell us a little bit about yourself and your company. Where are you based? What does your company do? How have you and your employees been surviving COVID-19?
I founded Mylkbar three years ago after leaving the corporate world. We offer fume-free, natural nail services. Our flagship location in Mount Pleasant, S.C. closed for Covid-19 before governor Henry McMaster issued his executive order. Our team has followed all government regulations related to Covid-19.
Covid has been tough for everyone. We assumed the shutdown would be to flatten the curve and then we could return to work. Many small businesses have closed for good. My mother has bronchiectasis and Sjogren’s syndrome, so I personally understand fear for the vulnerable and essential workers. Weighing these fears with long-term, grave consequences is critical. There is also a significant increase in child abuse, domestic violence, and suicides.
Those who actually know me can attest to my passion for the less fortunate and the organizations I care deeply about. Mylkbar recently gave a large amount to indigenous peoples displaced by wildfires in Australia and I have posted on my personal page about multiple nonprofits we give to regularly (even during quarantine). The only date night my husband I had during this shutdown was to safely serve food at a well-known homeless shelter downtown.
Before we get into your post and all the response it has generated, tell us a little bit about your politics.
I majored in Political Science and Economics and identify most closely with the Libertarian Party. Dr. Ron Paul is a retired Republican that I have always admired for his steadfast Constitutional views. I have also publicly applauded Jamal Holley (Democrat, New Jersey) for his outspoken views on medical freedom and some social programs. We are being conditioned to think that people who fight for freedom are selfish and this simply is not true.
So … walk us through exactly what/ when/ where you posted on social media, and what your thought process was in posting it. We will get to the response in a moment, but first tell us about what you posted and why.
On Saturday, May 16 I posted an Instagram story on my personal and private Instagram page about a Trump Boat Parade on Memorial Day Weekend. Boat ramps in South Carolina have been open for weeks and social distancing is easily achieved on a boat. The whole state will be opened by Memorial Day Weekend and it is always a big boating weekend.
(Click to view)
Pepi Rodriguez, owner of Lina Rosa Jewelry, was apparently very upset about this parade. Mylkbar was one of the first retailers to carry her line as the earrings are unique and beautiful! Pepi screen-shotted my post, made it her own, and encouraged people to boycott businesses owned by people who publicly support Trump – characterizing them as “racist, greedy, and shameful.”
I reached out to Pepi with no response from her.
Pepi then decided to involve Tamika Gadsden, a local radio show host and activist. Gadsden took a photo of me and spread on all of her social channels that I was a white supremacist and reprehensible. They started referring to anyone who disagreed with their narrative as “clanswomen” and “white supremacists.” Some of my very Liberal-minded friends also came to my defense, but the damage was already done by Gadsden and Rodriguez.
Tamika Gadsden who made some pretty inflammatory remarks in response to what you posted. What do you have to say back to her?
I had never heard of Gadsden or her platform until a week ago. She took Rodriguez’s post, and also created her own content, using my original post and various photos of me. She labeled me as a “white supremacist” and said I was organizing a “nautical klan rally to honor the son of a klansman.”
(Click to view)
Gadsden and Rodriguez continued to associate the post with Mylkbar in an effort to not only destroy my character, but my business and family as well.
Gadsden’s comments obviously drew a response from Kathryn Dennis of Southern Charm fame. What did you make of all that?
Many people were upset when they saw how I was getting cyber bullied. Kathryn Dennis got into a heated exchange with Tamika, which I did not know about until afterwards. I would never condone, or encourage, racist behavior or emojis – and Kathryn has publicly apologized and I can’t speak for her. I have personally never heard her make a racist remark.
Gadsden, and her followers, continue to post and screenshot the conversation with the offensive emoji and tag Mylkbar and my personal page, which is now deleted. It is not only defamation, but bad journalism because I was not involved.
You’ve gotten some pretty scary threats in the aftermath of this situation. Can you tell us about some of those? Or better yet, show us?
Gadsden and Rodriguez’s posts have caused a severe amount of emotional distress for my team, my family, and my children. We had to involve the police. Someone on Tamika’s twitter encouraged extreme violence on her post about me and said “why can’t mass shootings happen at places like this.” Tamika liked the comment, which is absolutely horrific. She has also encouraged people to hack my website.
(Click to view)
So is there a double standard in our society? Obviously, the coverage of the sexual assault allegations against Joe Biden – and the scandal involving Biden and other Obama-era officials spying on the Trump campaign – have raised questions about the mainstream media’s increasingly activist role in our country. How should we address this double standard?
I was attracted to tell my story on your website because you are independent. The media has encouraged this “cancel culture” of trying to limit free speech when it does not fit their agenda.
What sort of lessons do you take from all this? What would you want people to know about your experience? What would you tell others dealing with similar attacks?
Looking back, it is best to not engage. We live in a society where people feel comfortable having conversations behind a keyboard that they would never have in person. I regret some of the ways I responded to a couple clients who tried to shame me from re-opening Mylkbar when it was going to be legal to do so. I also am saddened that I have lost a few friends over differing views that occurred during quarantine.
I will not, however, apologize for supporting our sitting President. It does not make me racist. My views challenge people who want to control the narrative. If you are triggered by someone on social media, mute or skip their stories and move on with your day. I am confident in who I am and God knows my heart.
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