Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I’m writing in response to Leo Cauchon’s letter, “We need to address racism”.
Since Leo is very emphatic about the importance of recognizing different perspectives, I hope he is able to acknowledge that some people, myself included, have an alternate take on the issues he outlined. After dredging up references to the Civil War and Reconstruction, he introduces a ten year old quote from an unidentified parent as “local history”, a quote where no concrete context is provided. He then claims, outrageously in my opinion, that Trustee Sam Fant is a victim of “backlash” and that the possibility of censure was the result of his “stepping forward with community concerns about what the rest of the country is now clear are racist images”. According to Leo, Fant believed “public disclosure of the images would change perceptions”. He further asserted that Fant “became the focus of a ‘witch hunt’ for bullies”. But the true scapegoat is the district employee who, despite public testimonials at a board meeting by black speakers, as well as written letters of support from numerous parents at her school, is the implied racist (because of her deleted Facebook page), portrayed as deserving scorn and ridicule.
Racism is a controversial and serious subject, not to be taken lightly. Yet the human element is being lost or purposely ignored in a quest to uncover supposed racism in the school district. A Facebook page does not write or post itself, so every reference to the alleged “racist images” is an implicit suggestion that the employee, herself, is racist. Consider how damaging it is to be unfairly labeled a racist, a term which should not be flung about carelessly. I am not going to use her name, which has been dragged through the pages of the Bulletin enough. But I have honestly had my fill of manufactured racism. Manufactured racism stands in stark contrast to actual racism. What I mean by that term is using supposed racism as a cause or issue for attention-seeking purposes, even after the mindset and intentions behind the posting have been shown not to have deliberate racial overtones. Ashley Drain, Sam Fant, Leo Cauchon, and others have every right to be offended by the Facebook page and, from their perspective, consider it racist. But the district employee, her supporters, and myself have an equal right to recognize that it was not intentionally racist. Public opinions on the significance of the the Facebook page images are just that - opinions, not undisputed facts. Neither side has the right to demand or expect that others must share their perspective or accept it as true.
The Obama Communist reference on the Facebook page is only a reflection of a political opinion, without mentioning race at all. Criticism of President Obama, whom I like and voted for twice, does not automatically mean the critic is racist. The alleged bullet hole in Obama’s forehead which Leo claims “many” see, is actually a widely distributed social media picture of a fly landing on him. Disrespectful? Arguably, yes. Racist? That would be an unsubstantiated reach. No matter how many times Leo repeats the “bullet hole” falsehood, it still doesn’t make it true.
It is baffling to me how Leo, who continually appeals for forgiveness and healing at board meetings and on the Bulletin’s on-line comments section, is so determined to keep the Facebook images which were deleted from that page months ago, constantly in the public eye. In his letter, he even wondered when the Bulletin would post the images as “historical artifacts”. Really? I don’t understand how deliberate public shaming is supposed to promote “healing”. To me, it just appears petty and vindictive.
What we all need to remember is that this Facebook controversy sprang from another racial Facebook dust-up where Trustee Ashley Drain publicly bad-mouthed Weston Ranch employees (principal, janitor, office staff) and accused some of racism. The questioning of this attack on district staff by the aforementioned employee led to the recent accusations against her of racist postings. In the Bulletin (7-22-15), Trustee Drain was quoted as saying “be careful who you piss off” and “be careful about whose toes you’re stepping on” in reference to the Grand Jury report that criticized her and Trustee Fant. But that is the exact message she is sending to all district employees, if anyone dares challenge or question her. It is time to put a stop to this. The employee in question should not become the poster child for imagined racism, to be trotted out whenever a racial issue arises, just to further someone’s personal agenda. Focus on real racial issues, abuses, and solutions and how to make the whole district, not just Weston Ranch, the better for it.