Over the past few days and after Terry McAteer (chief proponent Measure V) made implications that certain Measure V opponents were racists, folks have been texting and emailing me links to news articles on the internet detailing allegations that Terry McAteer made an "alleged racist remark during a staff meeting" when McAteer was the Inyo County School Superintendent a few years back. I won't link to the allegations, because McAteer denied them, and it appears that nothing monumental came of the allegations.
That said, these incidents bring to light our Nation's most difficult topic which most people really do not like to talk about. Let's be very clear at the start. Racism exists in America. Put that on the list of undeniable facts. Growing up on the south side of Chicago (Harvey, South Holland, Riverdale), I saw and heard a lot of racism in a quantity vastly exceeding what your average Californian experiences. When we moved to California in 1998, it was a noteworthy and pleasant change, and we were pleased to be able to raise our girls in a less racist atmosphere. Again, let's be very clear. Racism, in any form, is wrong, and if you disagree, you are on the wrong side of history and of morality. No matter what anyone tells me, I will never be convinced otherwise. Judging any individual on account of their race or seeing one's race before anything else is abhorrent and ignorant. Full stop.
Because racism is inherently hateful and repulsive and having established that racism undeniably exists, the question becomes how we get rid of it once and for all. Because racism became so engrained in the colonial and American ethos for hundreds of years, it will likely take as long to again rid ourselves of it. Racism is a generational issue which will take generations to rectify. One of the benefits of aging is that you start to see things from the top down more clearly. In my personal experience, I have thankfully seen and heard less racism as my life progresses. The most important thing that we can do individually to combat racism is to teach our children about it and its evils. We must teach our children that skin color is as relevant to an individual before us as is their hair color. Skin color and hair color are evidence of genetic markers not a window into someone's soul. In the words of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., all individuals should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. His words on this Truth are words that we should all strive to live by.
Dr. King uses the word "character," but what does "character" actually mean? The word character comes from the ancient Greek "kharaktēr" which meant an "engraved mark" and was extended in Hellenistic times by metaphor to a "symbol or imprint on the soul." In English, the word "character" means "moral qualities assigned to a person by reputation." Thus, our character is defined by our actions which becomes our reputation. Teaching our children how to judge people by their actions (their character), rather than random genetic markers, will cause racism to die a slow death over generations.
That said, what do we do now? How do we convince others who are no longer children to see the individual before race? The answer is simple and enshrined in our Constitution; we speak up when we see it. I am not talking about tweeting "Black Lives Matter" from your couch as you watch Netflix. I am talking about speaking out against any and all racism. Anytime someone confronted by a situation sees race first, they need to be called out which brings me back to McAteer.
A few days ago, McAteer (chief proponent Measure V) made implications that certain Measure V opponents were racists, because they paid for a mailer opposing Natalie Adona for Clerk/Recorder in the most recent election and such mailer had a picture of Adona on it. In order to make this untoward allegation, McAteer must have concluded that, because Adona is a person of color, the opposition to her must be racist and that including her picture on the mailer was some kind of dog-whistle to the Nevada County electorate to not vote for the person of color. Let that sink in for a moment, as it is a prime example of the type of racism discussed above. McAteer saw opposition to a person of color as race-based without even mentioning the sensible reasons for such opposition with which he disagrees. In other words, she is a person of color and I think that she is qualified, so you must be a racist if you oppose her in this manner. Simple in his mind, but such simple and ignorant thinking perpetuates racism over time and is harmful to society in general. We will never get passed racism if race is the first thing that people see and attribute any reasonable disagreement to it.
Does that make McAteer a racist who sees race first before anything else? Not necessarily. As stressed above, all people should be judged by the content of their character which is their "moral qualities assigned to a person by reputation." Nobody should be judged upon one action alone but upon the collection all of their actions - their reputation. I leave it to the reader to judge McAteer's character and reputation for themselves.
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