Santa Monica Lookout Opinion

Voter Discrimination, Racism . . . Here We Go Again

By Kip Dellinger

October 12, 2023 -- We are told that UC Berkeley, Michigan, and Harvard professors have provided a “study” effectively alleging rampant racism in the switch to at large-elections in 1946 ("Santa Monica Is Case Study in Voter Discrimination, Report Contends," October 10, 2023).

Sadly, the modern-day Santa Monica voter has a too short attention span and thinks "history" began when they arrived. But we’ve been down this road before.

Thirty-one years ago, a member of the Liberal Establishment -- J. Morgan Krouser -- enabled by LA Times reporter Jeff Kramer -- made the same type of accusations (Los Angeles Time, March 22, 1992).

And I was reminded of my response (LA Times, March 29, 1992):

. . . for Kramer or Krousser [or Berkeley, Michigan, and Harvard professors] to compare Santa Monica in the late 40s or early 50s to rural Alabama or Mississippi is absurd and designed to fuel racial divisions simply to achieve the goals of districting advocates.

In 1954, as a 10-year-old, I delivered leaflets to elect Frank Fernandez to City Council in a predominantly WASP area. Fernandez, a businessman, didn’t win –- but he didn’t cry racism and I wasn’t chased off anyone’s property . . .

In the 50s and early 60s I played Little League, kid’s football, and basketball with athletes of all races. At Santa Monica High, all students drank from the same drinking fountains, and we conducted exchange assembly programs with Centennial High School from predominantly minority Compton.

I lived at 14th and Brentwood Terrace and virtually all minorities were [frequent] guests at my house. No crosses were burned on our lawn.

The overwhelmingly white Santa Monica High School elected a Black student body president in the late 40s and another in the early 50s. A Latino was elected in the 50s and a student of Japanese ancestry was elected in 1962. We had begun to see ourselves as one community, not several. Our council system encouraged that.

I concluded: To conduct a study using old newspaper articles and apply current, politically correct journalistic [or Chicago Manual of Style] standards to form conclusions about the type of city Santa Monica was in the late 1940s is negligent in all respects.

The kinds of “improvement” in government and race relations that follow such studies often lead to the type of social paralysis we now see on all levels in this country.

In retrospect, it seems we may have been headed in the right direction until the social engineers and journalists got involved.

When I wrote that letter, I was a volunteer track and field and varsity football coach at Santa Monica High School. I was concerned about the negative contributions that the budding “see everything through the prism of race” movement would lead to (the athletes I was specifically coaching were 99 percent racial minorities).

Today, thirty-one years later, it appears worse than I could have imagined. And I can hardly believe carving up a geographically small City bounded on three sides by Los Angeles and the other by the Pacific Ocean is going to solve anything -– except to create new political fiefdoms that will generate more divisiveness as an unintended consequence.

And, in the end, when I think of this “new” study, I am reminded of Karl Marx and his observation that “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” Or maybe Lord Melbourne’s (Queen Victoria’s first Prime Minister) comment that “What all the wise men promised has not happened, and what all the damn fools predicted has come to pass.”

Kip Dellinger is a lifelong Santa Monica resident and longtime political observer.

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