A Facebook meme by Portage County Chief Deputy Dan Kontos is stirring up controversy, being dubbed racist by some.
Saturday morning, Kontos posted a meme on the Portage County Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page.
The post had a character from the Super Troopers movie spelling out a name. It’s implied he’s relaying the name to dispatch. He spells out the last name Smith; Sam, Mary, Ida, Tom, Harry. On the bottom of the picture it says first name Tawneequa, common spelling.
Hundreds of comments followed, some in support of Kontos and the post, calling it funny. But dozens of other people took offense, saying that the post was racist.
“Those of us that have always struggled with our names, and always struggled to be labeled when folks see how our names are spelled, that brings back a lot of trauma,” said Stevens Point resident Ntxhais Chai Moua. “A lot of times we may say things or do things and may not know our actions could be racist.”
The next day, Kontos posted a follow-up to the meme, saying that it was supposed to be humorous. He never offered an apology in his post, saying that he felt no need to justify himself. At one point in the post he told people who were offended to “go back to your safe spaces.”
“Sad was my first feeling, and it’s still my feeling,” said Portage County Board Supervisor Meleesa Johnson. “Chief deputy Kontos is well known in the community, and respected, I think everyone expected better.”
The post spurred numerous area officials to speak out. State Representative Katrina Shankland posted to Facebook saying that she was frustrated with how it was handled. She said Kontons should have listened to the concerns instead of just disregarding them.
Monday night, at the Stevens Point City Counil meeting, Mayor Mike Wiza took a few minutes at the beginning to read the city’s resolution on inclusion and diversity.
“The common council will be vigilant in the defense of the rights of people, proactive in our attempts to be a welcoming community for all,” said Wiza.
Both posts were deleted. News 9 reached out to Kontos and Portage County Sheriff Mike Lukas, but they said they were too busy for an interview.
The Facebook page is an unofficial fan page of the sheriff’s department created by Chief Deputy Kontos.