Saturday, February 28, 2009

Orange County Mayor Resigns Over Watermelon Message

Los Alamitos Mayor Dean Grose

No sooner do we have the controversy over the New York Post's tasteless Chimp Cartoon than we get this piece of news out of Los Alamitos, California, an insignificant berg in Orange County. Mayor Dean Grose has resigned in the wake of an e-mail message he sent to an African-American businesswoman that contained a picture of a watermelon patch in front of the White House. (I'm not making this up, folks.)

When the firestorm hit the Southland this week, Mayor Grose initially feigned ignorance of the traditional racial stereotype conjured up by watermelons. He then came to his senses and tendered his resignation.

The Orange County Register headlines its local section today with a report that adds to the stupidity of the whole incident.

It is entitled: "Mayor's exit fuels debate".


As the media is wont to do, they consult university academics for guidance on what is a pretty simple issue.

"It was a flagrant disregard for basic civility and a demonstrated lack of knowledge about how painful the issue of race has been for our nation," according to Fred Smoller, associate professor of Political Science at Chapman University.

"It's the one issue that's almost destroyed the nation and when people touch it in an insensitive way, they pay for it"

Mark Petracca, chairman of the Political Science Department at UC Irvine, also weighed in.

"There are a couple of features of this story that I think are unusual and one is the quickness with which it's happened. We've gone from incident, to apology to someone deciding to fall on their sword and taking full responsibility for it but it's explained by the sheer amount of attention the incident has received."

"This is hardly the first incidence that an elected official has said or done something colossally stupid."

"Now, I don't know this guy, but I'm assuming he's doing this because he loves his city. This does help to facilitate some redemption if not for the mayor, then for the city."

Then there is this from Gabrielle Foreman, a literary historian at Occidental College:

"I don't think we want people serving us who have so little sense of history. I also don't think that resignation has to be the only response. I think education is a really good response as well."

With all due respect to the above three individuals, do we really need to find the answers on a university campus? Does it really require academic scholars to analyze this one, folks?

But it gets even better.

The Register is also reporting this morning that Grose has reached out to the Orange County Human Relations Commission, a bureaucratic broom closet that purports to "combat racism, intolerance and discrimination" (according to the Register). This outfit is headed by one Rusty Kennedy, to whom specifically Grose reached out. Kennedy is the same character I made the mistake of reaching out to in an e-mail I sent to him last year complaining about anti-Semitism on the UC-Irvine campus. In his reply, Kennedy excoriated me for criticizing the lack of effective response by university officials.

"We talked at great length and he expressed a lot of remorse," Kennedy said. "He wanted to figure out how he can do the right thing." (Referring to Grose-not me).

"He's worried that this would reflect poorly on the city. "He then shared his decision to step down."

"People do a lot of different things as symbols of apology or action to try to make amends for things they have done to hurt others. I thought that was a wise and caring thing to do given the hurt and demeaning nature of that joke."


Had Grose contacted me first, I would have advised him to reach out to someone like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson. That would have gotten him farther than calling Rusty Kennedy. But what do I care? As the corrupt cop in "Scarface" said, it's his tree. He's sitting in it.

Just another example of the type of political leaders we have in our country.

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