Jason Robo: Anti-vaxxer calls Black health officer 'Aunt Jemima' at county board meeting

The term 'Aunt Jemima' is deemed an 'offensive depiction of a Black woman in a subservient role'


                            Jason Robo: Anti-vaxxer calls Black health officer 'Aunt Jemima' at county board meeting
Jason Robo (R) used the controversial term to describe County Public Health Officer Dr Wilma Wooten (L), who is Black (County News Center)

An aspiring comedian and anti-vaxxer was rebuked for calling a local Black public health officer "Aunt Jemima" at a Tuesday meeting of the San Diego Board of Supervisors and he remained unapologetic when one supervisor intervened.

Jason Robo used the controversial term to describe County Public Health Officer Dr Wilma Wooten. The man also insulted a supervisor's appearance at the meeting. Aunt Jemima is a popular brand and logo that was used by Quaker Oats for decades before it was retired in 2020 due to outrage that the character was based on a stereotypical 'mammy' figure deemed as an "offensive depiction of a Black woman in a subservient role," Newsweek reported.

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At the board of supervisors meeting, Robo introduced himself to "ladies, gentlemen, traitors" and began his speech, shortly before making a joke about the serial killer John Wayne Gacy. He went on to slam the supervisors and the pharmaceutical industry over Covid mandates and restrictions. The man also referred to the supervisors by name, referring to Supervisor Nora Vargas' weight and calling for them to resign and cease to exist.

"And then Wooten, you're f***ing Aunt Jemima," Robo said, before Vargas interjected and told him he could not use that term to describe Wooten. "I'm sorry, you are not allowed to say that to her," Vargas asserted. "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 demanded an apology from Robo, but the comic responded by calling Wooten a "piece of furniture" and saying a chair had more intelligence. During the exchange between Robo and Vargas, Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher was briefly out of the room. He returned moments before Vargas said, "You are not allowed to talk to her that way. No. Absolutely not. Not under my f***ing watch." Robo's time had expired by then and Fletcher asked him to take a seat, according to a report from San Diego's KPBS. 



 

At least 60 residents spoke at the meeting on Tuesday, with most criticizing Covid vaccine requirements after the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to keep a vaccine mandate for new employees. According to the report, the meeting was tense. Fletcher is said to have had another person removed from the room at one point for interrupting proceedings. Nonetheless, the supervisors continued to be heckled by those in attendance.

Responding to the tension, Fletcher addressed the room and discussed the conduct at recent meetings. School board meetings across the nation have become flashpoints in parents' arguments about restrictive Covid-19 vaccines and mask mandates, with several reports garnering national attention. "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," he added.

There was condemnation of Robo's racially-charged words by the NAACP which released a statement on Thursday. "We stand in support of Dr. Wilma Wooten, County Public Health Officer, who was compared to Aunt Jemima during a verbal assault during public comment this Tuesday. The use of racist analogies and derogatory name-calling is not an acceptable practice during public comment. Rather, this type of behavior offends us all. NAACP San Diego Branch supports and defends the First Amendment right to free speech. However, Tuesday’s display of hatred should be condemned by the residents of this region. Even PepsiCo and Quaker Oats recognized the offensive and historical stereotype of the Aunt Jemima symbol and introduced new packaging for their product without this offensive picture, which they had used for 130 years. Comments like these add nothing but hate to public discourse and do not contribute to the greater good of the people of San Diego County. We urge you to join us in condemning this racist and offensive behavior."