Indiscriminately accusing political opponents of being racists – especially as a substitute for argument – has become a hallmark of the contemporary progressive Left. Last week, District 1 Councilmember Denise Barnes decided it was her turn to play the race card by accusing members of the council majority – Mayor Harry Sidhu, Mayor Pro Tem Lucille Kring and Councilmembers Jordan Brandman, Steve Faessel and Trevor O’Neil – of being “racists.”
“Mr. Mayor, I’m getting the distinct impression that every time Jose and I vote, that this is getting quite…quite racist,” Barnes charged.
Sidhu and Kring quickly objected to Barnes’ j’accuse, terming it offensive and abusive. Sidhu admonished Barnes to stick to the issue at hand and refrain from such attacks on her colleagues.
Sidhu acceded to requests by District 3 Councilman Jose F. Moreno and then Brandman for brief recess. When the councilmembers returned to the dais, Moreno – a democratic socialist and professor of Chicano Studies at Long Beach State – implied Sidhu was a racist for not agreeing to the recess until after Brandman (who is Anglo) also requested one.
Moreno then called Barnes’ courageous for accusing the council majority of being racist, arguing that the feelings behind an accusation matter more than the truth of the accusation. Moreno.
“We can debate whether or not it’s true , but it’s how one feels,” asserted the leftist academic.
Actually, there’s nothing to debate: Barnes’ racism charge is false. If someone can simply fling out a baseless charge and expect it be debated as if it carried merit, it is the death of reasonable discourse. Likewise with Moreno’s mealy-mouthed rationalization that feelings override facts. What courage does it take to recklessly smear opponents because you lost a few votes?
Barnes chose to side with her left-wing colleague Moreno on whether the city should contribute $250,000 in matching funds for a community needs assessment. She lost. In what parallel universe does that make anyone a racist?
It’s bad enough progressive Democrat politicians and activists routinely and mindlessly accuse non-progressives of being racists. It’s ridiculous when a self-described conservative Republican councilmember indulges in the same brand of bullying – a politician recruited, elected and operated by a cadre of GOP actors who consider themselves arbiters of conservative orthodoxy.
Barnes Claims She Was “Frustrated”
In a Voice of OC article several days later, Barnes expressed regret in lodging her “racist” charge:
In a Friday interview with Voice of OC, Barnes said she regrets the charge of racism and said the remark stemmed from frustration with the council majority.
“The frustration I have is at a boiling point,” Barnes said. She also said council members should be meeting with residents already and speaking with various department heads and city commissions to understand the issues neighborhoods face, which would kill the need for Anaheim First.
“You have to be out there and in it with a heart and conscious,” Barnes said. “It’s my frustration that led to the comment, quite frankly.”
And who hasn’t expressed their frustration at someone by calling them a racist?
Come on. That’s just not a credible explanation. If her explanation were true, why didn’t Barnes just say, “I’m frustrated with the council majority.” She’s made similar comments in the past.
Barnes has chosen to ally herself with Moreno. She chose to vote with him against the matching city contribution to the Anaheim Community Assessment to be conducted with Anaheim First. That was a political decision on her part. Lashing out by calling the council majority “racist” doesn’t follow from that.
Moreno Doubles Down
Later on, Moreno revived the topic during his councilmember comments, clearly implying Mayor Sidhu’s seating arrangement for the council dais is racially motivated.
“For folks who don’t know, the mayor decides the seating up here on the dais. And his first action,” Moreno intoned dramatically. “Was to put Councilwoman Barnes on one end, and myself on the other end.”
“That says a lot. That says a ton. So when Councilwoman Barnes says you put the Mexican-American woman on one end, and the Mexican-American man on the other end – what else are you supposed to read, if you lived that experience over your life?”
Let’s unpack Moreno’s whingeing.
The mayor does indeed make the council dais seating assignments. After he secured a council majority in the 2016 election, Mayor Tom Tait exiled the remnants of the old council majority to opposite ends of the council dais. Moreno uttered no complaint or criticism of Tait’s actions.
Following the 2018 election, which made Sidhu mayor at the head of a new council majority, Moreno and Barnes were in turn exiled to the ends of the council dais.
That doesn’t say “tons.” What it says is this is politics. Elections have consequences, as Moreno himself likes to say. It’s strange that Moreno – for whom everything seems to be politics – would complain. What isn’t strange is he tries to turn into a racial issues, because he is a practitioner of racial identity politics.
Moreno talks as if it is perfectly natural to look at the Anaheim City Council seating arrangements and infer Barnes and Moreno were given their seating assignments because they’re Hispanic.
“What else are you supposed to read, if you lived that experience over your life?” he declares.
I don’t profess knowledge of the life experiences of either Moreno or Barnes. But how about reading the truth? How about not viewing everything through race-colored lenses? How about transcending victimhood? How about choosing not automatically assuming the worst?
My late father-in-law was, next to my own father, the greatest man I have ever known. He grew up poor in a barrio in Orange, the son of migrant farm workers. He actually attended a segregated school for most of elementary school (one of his older sisters was a witness for the plaintiffs in Mendez v. Westminster). He served his country in the Army, worked hard and raised a family. He was a staunch union man and who saved and lived the American Dream in the same barrio where he grew up. I never heard him indulge in self-pity or “This happened to me because I’m Mexican” complaining. He was a man of joy.
The point is there are plenty of ways to “read” things like the Anaheim City Council’s seating arrangements. One can be reasonable and grown-up and see it for what it plainly is: one of the political consequences of winning (or losing) an election.
Or one can engage in whiny, unthinking identity politics and mewl about being the victim of imaginary racism.
Most Americans, of all political, socioeconomic and ethnics are tired of politicians who resort to politically-correct race card playing the way Barnes and Moreno did last week. They understand it is false and serves to chill free and reasonable political discourse.
Hopefully Barnes will, in the future, find a way to manage episodes of frustration without flaying the innocent as racists. As for Moreno: this is how he sees the world. This is the sort of politics he practices. It just doesn’t always emerge in such a bald fashion.