The M Word
It seems a recent event in Illinois has caused a racial stir and has the Obama campaign asking for one of his delegates to step down. Has a new banned word entered our vocabulary? And further, is the understanding and inclusive Obama doing the right thing by asking this delegate to give up her position?
First, let’s detail the story before we analyze the repercussions.
Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski, a trustee for the village of Carpentersville, is very protective of her village. She recently failed in her attempt to have a member of the Board of Trustees removed after it came to light that that trustee, Paul Humpfer, was convicted of domestic battery. She cares about her community. She cares about the trees in her community. She is very protective of the village.
This past week, she noticed her neighbor’s kids, the children of single African-American mothers who live next to her, playing in the tree in their yard. It was a small magnolia tree and she was concerned about the boy’s safety and the small tree was being damaged. She came out and expressed her concern, after which the father of one of the boys told her it was none of her business. That is when she responded
The tree is not there for them to be climbing in there like monkeys.
The mother of one boy called the police. She was ticketed for disorderly conduct and fined $75.
Cmdr. Michael Kilbourne said the ticket was issued because the ordinance bans conduct that disturbs or alarms people, and one of the boys told police he was scared by her comment.
Shortly after the incident became public, the Obama campaign asked for her to resign her position as delegate, which she agreed to do, initially.
However, today, after some support from the mayor of her town, she has decided to remain as delegate, though she has stated she will not seek another term as village trustee. The Obama campaign has since stated that she could remain as delegate, days after the incident and initial demand for her removal.
Now, there are a lot of questions raised by this incident.
First, is it really now a crime to call a black person a monkey? Have we perhaps become a little thin skinned in our attempts to fight racism that we are now ready to go so far as to make some speech illegal? It is clear, IMO, that there was NO intention of a racial slur in any regards, that the animosity between the two neighbors has caused tensions between the two to bubble and the mother who called the police was playing a card that she should not have played. And the police, again IMO, caused more harm by feeding into the children’s uncomfortable feelings. Had they, and the parents for that matter, behaved in a more ‘tolerant and understanding’ manner, perhaps their children would not now believe that anyone using that word is automatically a racist and further propagate those feelings onto the next generation. Instead, the family, assisted by the police in this manner, successfully used race as a weapon against a woman who has dedicated herself to the betterment of her community, perhaps in too busybody of a way, but with nothing but good intentions. As town president Bill Sarto, who had been the other member of the board to try and force Paul Humpfer out of his position, stated and I agree with:
Frankly, I don’t see a law that was broken here,” Sarto said. “I think this entire thing has been blown out of proportion. She’s a good neighbor. She went over to caution the children to be careful not to fall out of a tree. She has never indicated to me any prejudice whatsoever. We have a trustee who has been convicted on four counts of domestic battery and refuses to resign from the board. He beat his wife with a baseball bat. This seems far less egregious to me.
He also said that the Obama campaign was wrong to ask for her to step down. Which brings us to the second, and perhaps more interesting on a national political level, point of why did the Obama campaign initially ask for her to resign and only relent when it was clear that public opinion was not on their side? Is this the type of leadership that Obama is speaking about when he talks about racial tolerance? Of understanding? The campaign could have taken a day or two to find out all of the details before asking for her to resign, that would have been the prudent reaction to take. Instead, they acted initially on the side of those claiming racial victimization and against an ardent supporter. Frankly, I question why Linda Ramirez-Sliwinski would still agree to be a delegate for someone who treated her that way. But, I question a lot of things, so that becomes second nature I suppose.
It’s clear that Sarto is right, this is ridiculous on both its face and at the deeper level once examined. She should have no trouble, IMO, defending herself against the charge which she has stated she will do. But I think that this adds to other events that Sen Obama has been involved in that causes many of us who are not members of the Cult of Obama to question the type of leadership that he will provide, not what type of leadership he tells us he wants to provide. It will be this kind of information, absent other examples of individual leadership, that will shape the second half of this campaign if he does win the nomination.