What’s in a Name? Artsakh Street, My Neighbors, and Social Media Bigotry in Glendale, Calif.

Racism and bigotry are nothing new to Glendale, Calif. In this era, they have taken new forms.

Nextdoor is a popular app that allows you to connect with neighbors in your area. It’s a digital neighborhood watch, and functions similarly to other social media platforms that allow you to meet and mingle with your neighbors and provide vital information. Posts range from crime and safety bulletins to garage sales and local news.

In 1991, the Armenian community of Watertown, Mass. urged local government officials to change the name of the street on which the St. Stephen’s Armenian Church is located to Artsakh Street, in honor of the then-ongoing struggle for Karabagh’s independence (Photo: Rupen Janbazian/The Armenian Weekly)

One particular neighbor recently posted that the Glendale City Council would soon change the name of Maryland Avenue between Harvard and Wilson to “Artsakh Street,” in honor of the tens of thousands of Armenians—like myself—who call Glendale home. Many of our residents hail from Artsakh. Some are even veterans of the Artsakh War.

For us Diasporans, we are reminded every day of the horror that still exists for our brave brothers and sisters on the frontline and the hallowed ground that we consider Artsakh.

On the two-year anniversary of the 2016 April War, where 100 Armenians perished at the hands of Azerbaijani aggression, I was cruising through Nextdoor, and the word “Artsakh” caught my eye. While the post seemed innocuous, it soon turned out to be much more: It asked Glendale residents to e-mail a city case manager to voice their disputes.

Sure enough, a firestorm ensued. Comments ranged from the name change being taxpayer funded waste, to bigoted comments about Armenians and why they should not name a street something that cannot be pronounced. Some comments were poorly clouded in hyperbole, while the others were just outright rude. I did my part by posting a snarky, sarcastic comment pointing out the racist, bigoted nature of the posters, but of course, that rubbed people the wrong way.

For instance, a particular commenter pointed out the following:

These types of things are done very hush-hush because the powers that be know that people will be upset. Sneak it in when nobody’s looking. There’s always so much going on that things slip through the cracks. If you ask me, it seems like it was proposed by someone with a political agenda. Artsakh is a disputed state that it looks like two sovereign entities claim. Glendale has no business sticking its foot into this international argument and making a political statement with a street name. This whole thing is ridiculous.

My favorite of the bunch was likely this one:

Why does that street have to be re-named anyway? And what does “Artsakh” mean and in what language? If it is necessary, and I don’t know how it could be, to re-name a portion of Maryland Street in Glendale, USA, how about something truly American? English is still our language of choice in California no matter what ethnicity you are. If you live in this country, know it and love it. Don’t try and turn it into another one.

Another user accused me of hating my hometown: “Mr. Kazazian, by your comments, it sounds like you have a very low opinion of Glendale, it’s history, it’s architecture and it’s residents. May I ask why you would live here?” they asked.

I answered by pointing out that while my roots are from Armenia, Glendale is my home. That is why I live here. I further commented that my family, like countless others, have contributed to the local economy. Simply put, Glendale would not be the town that it is today without its Armenian population.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that non-Armenian Glendalians have voiced outrage toward the most sizable minority population in my beloved home.

Several months ago, some non-Armenian residents called out the current City Council and the Armenian population for wanting to build the Armenian American Museum here in town. Another,  particularly shocking instance of racial bigotry came about during the 2005 Glendale City Council campaign. As a volunteer for an Armenian candidate, I got a taste of some of the messages that were left at the campaign headquarters by “Native Glendalians.” Of course, they told us Armenians to “go home”—that this was their home.

If you would like to voice your opinion in support of renaming Maryland Avenue to Artsakh Street, please reach out to the Project Manager and Administrative Analyst for the city of Glendale, Cassandra Pruett via e-mail cpruett@glendaleca.gov or telephone 818-937-8186.

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A version of this op-ed was first published on April 10, in our Western U.S. sister publication Asbarez News.

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Joseph Kazazian

Joseph Kazazian is a Los Angeles-based activist and Juris Doctor Candidate. Kazazian has previously served on the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Western Region's Government Affairs Committee and has worked broadly on campaigns and policy at the local, state, and federal levels.

18 Comments

  1. thank you for this much needed article. i have seen the racism on this app myself years ago. i find it curious how our neighbors can feign a smile at our faces in public but go home on that very same day and reveal a dark and angst ridden racism spewing side that their own parents would be ashamed.

  2. Remind them that the only reason the langauge is English is because they slaughtered the real Americans and that we would love to go home except more than half our Homeland is in their allies hands

    • Sorry if I find your post silly. I’m not a “Trumpian”, but a “Clintonian” is a lot worse. Hopefully you are not a “Clintonian” since you have the word “Trumpian” in your vocabulary. My suggestion, stop watching liberal mainstream media if you care about your mental well being.

  3. Anyone who would like to debate the issue and has something other than hate like let’s say intelligence let’s hear it

  4. The particular neighbor who posted the comment on Nextdoor is a yappy dog who complains about everything Armenian. He also maintains a blog that spews his hatred. Here is the link to his article about the Armenian-American Museum: http://onehundreddays100.blogspot.com/2018/03/is-glendale-armenian-museum-part-of.html. And please note that this is an edited version. It looks like he removed the original blog article (probably because he got so much flak for it). But here is an excerpt of the original:

    “The decent Armenian population is currently steamrolling an idea to build a ‘museum’ on a small patch of green called Central Park near downtown Glendale.” (Please note the quotes around “museum”)

    “…the obliteration of Central Park by this huge and imposing architecture that is supposed to echo the mountains of Ararat, may be a footprint that may stamp out not only a public park, but will put the insignia of Armenia over the entire city of Glendale. Is that their aim? It seems so to me.”

    “If the Armenian population of Glendale is successful with this takeover, I wonder if it is their goal to simply nudge the non Armenian residents out of town so that they can fully control Glendale’s destiny?”

    This is immediately followed by “If this comes off as ‘anti Armenian’.. that is not my goal.”

  5. I just want to say, I was HEAVILY involved on that thread, and stood up for us. I called them all exactly what they were, bigots. I was then flagged. So i sent a message to the “lead” on nextdoor, proving they were making racial slurs and advised them if my comments are to be taken down and I am getting flagged, those making the negative comments should also be treated accordingly. I also told them if not, I’d be taking legal action against the website for discrimination. Nextdoor disabled my account and I cannot make a new account any more.

    • Did you save all their posts and your exchange with the website? Depending on that and what was said, you may have a lawsuit. But in order for it to work you needed to have saved all the pages to paint a picture of exactly how the website discriminated against you. These types of companies make me sick.

    • Hi Anna, I also stood up for us, while we were being bombarded with racism, I wasn’t even flagged, no notice, no emails, nothing, the moderators just stood there and watched all of the racist comments, and did absolutely nothing, and now I’m not being able to sign in. I even sent the moderator numerous reports each time someone was posting racist comments, and he did absolutely nothing. One time he said he “mutes” them,that there are a LOT of crazy people(while it was another subject) and just laughed it off. I mean what does this tell you when the moderator himself thinks these people are crazy, it’s a red flag right there, however, for them to actually sit and watch this and let it happen, I’m appalled at this, and the other person was right, this could be taken to court, however, I don’t know if I want to waste my energy and give them an opportunity, it could start a war so to speak. One good thing is at least I found out, and next time they ask us to help any of them with their “causes” see if we’re going to support them in anything.

  6. There are a small number of posters or maybe just a couple of people from the Glendale or surrounding area who are obsessed with Anti-Armenianism who have been posting their drivel for a very long time mostly on anonymous forums on the internet. As I have been reading such posts for a long time, it is pretty much the same person based on the type of posts which always sound similar with the same vocabulary being used.

    It is always the same type of post, criticizing Armenians for “crimes” and/or “driving too fast in residential streets” and/or “trying to turn the place into Armenia” and variants thereof. In the worst of the cases, He/She starts randomly praising Turks and “what they did to Armenians”. He/She showed up here anonymously recently as well with the same drivel, which I did not bother to respond to. At the site nextdoor, they try to hide their racism because they cannot openly talk their trash as when they are posting anonymously so they make an attempt as seeming “genuinely concerned citizens”.

    We can be reasonably certain that all those posts at nextdoor were probably made by that same person (or a few of them), and as that site is not anonymous, whoever comes across these few people should name them by full name and address at public comments sections in case some of us want to pursue any legal action against them and also expose these vermin to their places of education, employment, worship, etc. Note: one ethnic group I can name does exactly this and that is why they are quite successful in dealing with racism against them.

    Now about the hilarious attempt at their “bigotry” from these clowns against Armenians. Notice I placed ‘bigotry’ in quotes. That is because what they preach is quite weak and impotent, and it would be funny if it wasn’t outright stupid. Let’s see. These idiots claim “Armenians want to turn Glendale into Armenia” – because a small street is going to be named with an Armenian word – yet they all live in… what else… Mexico’s former LOS ANGELES which never had its name changed. In fact, Glendale itself is FULL of Spanish street names. Of course, Armenians are always placed to a higher standard for some odd reason by those who have a hatred for Armenians.

    That’s one point. Next we have that little matter of the value of Armenian owned properties, and compare those with “other minorities”. No need to get into details here, where Armenians live, property prices are some of the highest and there is no “Armenian neighborhood” which is run down.

    At any rate, we Armenian must not let these people get away with their vile racist rhetoric, regardless of who they are. Expose them and go after them at every opportunity. At the very least, everyone around needs to know who they are and the type of people they are, if not anything else, for safety and security reasons. There are a lot of insane people out there and they can snap at any moment. And some of these live in places like Glendale and are negatively obsessed with Armenians.

  7. Nextdoor can be vile. I will say Glendale is more than just armenian immigrants. Korean and Latino are prevalent, so in the case of the museum I’d love to see space dedicated to these groups.

  8. There is no need to apologize for power in the United States. If we want to change Glendale’s name into Nor Mosh, and the political process allows us, we should. There is absolutely no need to worry about what Anglos think or want. Did they ever worry about our preferences like on January 6th or April 24th? As for non-Armenians living in Glendale and other Armenian-plurality areas, I think that they are wise for doing so and we should have the best relations with them. At the same time, there is absolutely no reason for us to tolerate this sort of narrative that mostly comes from Anglo-Californians. There is a simple answer to it — “if you do not like it, move to Oregon.”

  9. The author of this piece is inviting Armenians from all around the world to lobby for a street name change in a city they do not live in, inviting then to do it for no other reason than they are Armenian. Does’t he find that troubling? The author needs to address the origin of the name “Maryland Avenue” and whether it has local historical significance. If it has, why it is OK for that name to be scrubbed out by incomers (just like the scrubbing out of Armenian place names in Turkey). Too many of the responses on this page contain bigoted hate-filled comments: comments the posters would never dare make in front of a non-Armenian audience but appear to think it is safe to make here.

    • “Steve”

      If you persist in your Armenian hating narrative, I have a bit of advise for you, “move to Oregon” — you will find it far more to your liking there, a lot less “ethnic” and no, I have no trouble saying this to any other Armenian hater, in public or in private. And yes, we have a right to our opinion and to express ourselves. And if you do not like that, tough. Get used to it.

  10. Jack,

    Do you really believe your response to Steve is even appropriate let alone mature? Steve made an intelligent point based on this article and your response was childish and immature. If this is a Glendale issue, why should anyone who doesnt even live there have that much impact on something like this?

    Take off your rose colored glasses, take a step back and try your best to look at this issue from all sides instead of assuming everyone is bigoted who doesnt necessarily agree with you or makes a point you seem to take personally for some odd reason. You dont even know his stance on this issue yet jump to attack him. Behavior like yours pushes so many non-Armenians who would likely support us away.

    Before you waste your time, yes, I am Armenian. Born in Yerevan and raised in Glendale. The fact that I even have to mention this simply because of people like you is pathetic.

  11. you should see the threads on the “vintage glendale – the jewel city” facebook group. one post got deleted (possibly because of how racist all the comments were, not sure) but another one is now up and once again jam packed with thinly veiled AND outright racism.

  12. The anti-racist rhetoric goes both ways. I moved to Glendale when I was 5-1/2 years old in the mid 60’s and lived there most of my life. At one point I worked in Glendale for several years. A woman was hired who was new to that business and I was asked to help train her, we shared a small office. She was Armenian, and although she had lived here for many years she didn’t speak much English. We occasionally shared stories from our lives while I was training her and we worked. During one conversation about our childhoods I casually mentioned that my mother was Jewish—she immediately mentioned that if her husband ever found out she was sharing office space with a “Jew” he would make her quit immediately…that he would NEVER allow her to share an office with a Jew. Now, Glendale in the 60’s was still quite a bigoted place, growing up I never told people my mother was Jewish…here we were in 2003 and suddenly I was being confronted with the same ugliness from a woman who left Armenia with her husband and family because of a similar kind of bigotry. She could feel the bigotry when it was directed at her but was oblivious to the bigotry that she was directing at me. It was a very disturbing and upsetting experience… This kind of ugliness is not only hurtful, but really what is the point? If you don’t like the way it feels why are you blind to what your own biases are? People can’t take it but interestingly they seem to be able to dish it out without batting an eye. To my Armenian friends with issues: bigotry goes both ways-when you complain about the racism you encounter in Glendale and elsewhere be sure to check the mirror and don’t be blind to your own bigoted leanings.

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