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Opinions are fun. My friends tell me I am someone with lots of opinions and that's fine since I don't get mad at others when they disagree with me. In this same spirit I am interested in hearing yours views as long as you are able to share your views without boiling over. I look forward to hearing from you. I tend to write in the form of short essays most of the time, but contributions do not need to be in this same format or size. Some of the content here will date itself pretty quickly, other content may be virtually timeless, this is for the reader to judge.

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What are we really teaching our kids?                                                                                     Print this essay

Posted at: Sep/29/2021 : Posted by: mel

Related Category: Perspectives, Society, Watching America,

The one thing that is guaranteed when you use race as a means to power or change is short term absurdity. The optics of race is currently one of the most popular cards to play when pursuing power. The absurdity arises when the simple facts that many people see plainly are ignored. I know, the “truth is supposed to ultimately come out”, but like so many things…the truth will appears as a retraction on page 14 three months after the original headline.

I apologize if the reference to reading a newspaper at all dates me.

Those were my thoughts as I drove over the bridge from San Diego to Coronado a few weeks ago on one of my regular photo expeditions. Coronado is an island across the bay from San Diego. It is dotted with beautiful homes, a spectacular hotel and wonderful beaches and bays. Coronado is also the home to the Navy SEALs and a couple of Aircraft Carriers. Coronado also made the news in June of 2021 during the Division 4-A regional high school basketball championship. The team and its community were condemned in the national media for “throwing tortillas at Orange Glen High”. This was viewed as proof of the racism that must be systemic in their community.

Less than 12 hours after the game, the Coronado Unified School District’s board blasted the "racism, classism, and colorism which fueled the actions of the perpetrators." The (CIF) California Interscholastic Federation which governs high school sports soon stripped the championship from the high school, imposed sanctions on all of its sports programs (yes, even women’s lacrosse) and made racial sensitivity training one of the conditions for redemption.

As a regular visitor to Coronado I found the racist branding did not align with any of the people I had met there and decided to spend a few days reading everything I could find on the incident.

Shortly after the tortilla throwing, organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and No Place for Hate jumped in to quickly brand the teenagers on the team as racist. In truth, it was one 40-year-old man named Luke Serna with no direct connection to the team or the school who brought the tortillas. He has been described by the townspeople as a Coronado alum who had not been to a game all year, a Latino, a president of a local union and a political activist with ties to the island’s left-wing groups that advocate for Critical Race Theory (CRT). It was this man who told the players, cheerleaders and fans to throw the tortillas in the air in celebration if Coronado won. If you look for the video on youtube you will see that nearly everyone at the game had enough common sense to ignore the tortilla wielding stranger except two 14-year old JV players.

Unfortunately, the ever-expanding racial justice industry saw this as a golden opportunity to expand its footprint.

For a quick end of game recap: Alex Crawford of Coronado made his buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the overtime game (video available online), he was lifted onto the shoulders of the delirious crowd. In the middle of this chaos, the Coronado head coach, JD Laaperi, told his Orange Glen counterpart, Chris Featherly, to "get your kids and get the f**k out of the gym." Clearly not a great message, but tensions were already high between the two teams having played a tense game only days earlier. In that game, a player had a clean breakaway when he was tackled hard to the floor from behind in a move more common to the professional soccer ranks.

Within minutes of the game ending, social media had already reframed the optics as "white" Coronado throwing tortillas at a Hispanic Orange Glen High School.

Less than a day after the game, the Coronado School Board called an illegal meeting (no public notice, etc.) in the early hours of Father’s Day 2021. The board only had a short video of a woman yelling, "Racist! Racist!", but that video was enough to make the board fear the charge of racism heading their way. They abandoned due process and signed the "racism, classism, and colorism" statement which redirected all charges of racism onto the innocent players. Imagine winning for your community the championship one day and being called a “perpetrator” the next.

One of the school board members, Stacy Keszei later learned that it was Serna behind the tortillas. She showed some fortitude demanding her name be removed from the board statement. Other board members though, apparently fearing reprisals, stood by their signatures. One of the toughest things about a situation like this is that truth seems to be ignored in favor of a social agenda and not wanting to be seen as objecting. I am reminded of the accounts I have read of the “Night of Broken Glass” (Kristallnacht, Germany November 9-10, 1938). Paramilitary, Hitler Youth and other groups broke windows of Jewish owned businesses. Some participants are reported saying that they joined in the vandalism fearing reprisals if they didn’t, but following the mob is never a good excuse.

Activists from a host of organizations including Black Lives Matter, NAACP, LULAC, and many other organizations quickly descended onto the little island. How better to incite a crowd than hyperbolic language, in that spirit Enrique Morones a local activist, led the way calling the tortillas "bombs of racism."

Of course, timing is everything: A week before the basketball game, many parents attended a school board meeting where they voiced objections to the ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) "No Place for Hate" campaign. On the surface this sounds reasonable, why not teach kindness in elementary schools. Differing from the teaching of “respect”, this program required schools report any “unkind” acts directly to the ADL. As a parent, I would want all behavior issues managed between the parent/school/district relationships and now understand why the program was objected to.

Four days after the game the ADL called the actions "racist" and said that Coronado "has an opportunity to send a message to school districts across the country that racism, bullying, and hate will not be tolerated … We cannot let hate go unchecked and we encourage all to speak out forcefully against this abhorrent behavior." What "abhorrent behavior" was ADL referring to? Two 14 year old youths throwing tortillas after a championship?

The optics may look bad, but there would likely have been nothing to see if Serna had not brought the tortillas to the game. There have since been a number of interviews with Coronado residents wondering out loud if Serna had brought the tortillas to the game in hopes of creating a racial incident that would advance the CRT agenda that he pushes.

For an organization that prides itself on kindness, the ADL was clearly showing no mercy to the basketball team. We try to teach our children about due process, but there was clearly none here, just a summary judgement and the stigma of being branded a racist spread across the internet. Is this type of summary judgement and the lack of due process what we want to teach our children?

Obviously, we are seeing a cultural shift. We have prided ourselves on individualism and used to go out of our way to hold people individually accountable for their actions. As things like Critical Race Theory take hold we are losing our individual identity in favor of group identity. If one person in a community acts badly, everyone in that community is branded as evil. Taken to its natural conclusion, this is a social horror story that has been the theme of many science fiction and post-apocalyptic novels.

More than 5 weeks after that fateful game, the Coronado School Board held a meeting lasting nearly eight and half hours. The school board finally voted 3-2 to remove "racism, classism, and colorism" as well as "perpetrators" from its already published statement. To date, the CIF still has not returned the championship to the high school and it has not lifted the sanctions imposed on all of its athletic teams including girl’s lacrosse.

This is a small victory, but it offers the notion that truth and due process may survive in the end. This is ultimately about what lessons we want to teach our kids. Mine have always been told if you do something wrong, you will be punished, but due process must be present so you can defend yourself. I know in the grand scheme of things a high school basketball championship may not mean a lot, but remember when you were 17-18 years old. Those players likely spent a third of their life working towards that moment. They had to overcome physical and emotional hardship and learn the value of working together. At every game through the season they put their talents and hard work to the test. It seems the wrong lesson to take all that away in the blink of an eye when outside organizations descend on their community.

This reminds me of the following words of wisdom of Booker T. Washington. They are as true today as they were when they were spoken originally. ”I am afraid that there is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don't want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public."

The old lessons of Booker T. Washington still resonate today. It is also clear that racism, discrimination and hatred are present in America, but is this really the path forward. More important, the notion of creating division by branding a community based on the bad actions of a few is offensive and contrary to the notion of individualism vs forced conformity. But then again, maybe a lack of individuality it favor of total conformity is the desired outcome. Of coarse, you may change your mind on that once your thought does not align with the group.

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Katharine B. Hathaway
If you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct, your life will be safe, expedient and thin.
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