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

By Asbarez | Tuesday, 10 April 2018

In Watertown, Mass. a street was  renamed Artsakh at the onset of the Artsakh Liberation Movement in the 80's

In Watertown, Mass. a street was renamed Artsakh at the onset of the Artsakh Liberation Movement in the 80’s

BY JOSEPH KAZAZIAN

Racism and bigotry are nothing new to Glendale. 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 app, 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.

One particular neighbor posted that the Glendale City Council would soon change the name of Maryland Ave., between Harvard and Wilson to “Artsakh Street;” in honor of the tens of thousands of Armenians who call Glendale home, much like myself. Many of our residents hail from Artsakh. Some are veterans of the First Artsakh War, and every day, as diasporans, we are reminded of both the horror that still exists for our brave brothers and sisters on the front line, and the hallowed ground that we consider Artsakh.

On the two-year anniversary of the “Four Day War,” where close to 200 Armenians perished at the hands of Azeri 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 email a city case manager to voice their disputes. Sure enough, the firestorm ensued. Comments ranged from the name change being taxpayer funded waste, to bigoted comments about Armenians and why they shouldn’t name a street something that can’t 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 commenter accused me of hating my home town.

“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?”

I answered simply, 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, and simply put, Glendale would not be the town that it is today without its Armenian population.

Unfortunately, this isn’t 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. Unfortunately, even this was not the first instance of racial bigotry that Non-Armenians have exhibited toward the Armenian population in Glendale.

A particularly shocking instance of it 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. This is our home.

If you would like to voice your opinion in support of renaming Maryland Avenue to Artsakh Street, please reach out to the following person: Cassandra Pruett, cpruett@glendaleca.gov, (818) 937-8186.


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