I was at CdM High School during the 1960s race riots in America. There were almost nightly scenes of black people on TV being fire-hosed. Or attack dogs set on them. Or being beaten by police with batons, arrested, put on buses to jail. Or soldiers would guard them as they attempted to integrate a school.
I remember being terrified. Something awful was happening but I was young and did not know what. I knew it was about anger because Southern politicians took to the airwaves and shouted epithets. But most of this was in the Deep South, someplace far away and foreign.
Then L.A. burned and you could feel it in the local air. It was fear.
I also had a keen interest in politics and my dad was tangentially involved in the local scene. At that time, Orange County’s elected representatives were so far right wing, the business community was estranged and wanted to create a “moderating” influence. They, including my father, started The Lincoln Club, which supported “moderate” candidates in the Republican Party. And my dad, being my dad, set me up to have lunch with a powerful guy in the club, who set me up with a younger guy my Dad did not know. The younger guy was in his mid 30s and had jet-black hair, intense eyes and a square jaw.
The guy drove me around Orange County and explained the facts of life about politics here, most of which passed over my head. Then the subject turned to race riots, and he got on a roll.
“Negroes are good people,” he said, “but they have bad influences on them.” Pause, “like Martin Luther King; he goes around talking peace but he incites riots.”
I had seen King’s “I Have A Dream” speech so said nothing, but my political friend did not need prompting.
“The Negro is ok, but you would not want to live next to one. They smell bad.”
“Huh?” was my response. I remember vividly the barbs that followed, as my political friend spouted the most ignorant of racial slurs.
When he started to repeat “nigger” frequently, I remember physically withdrawing, almost hugging the far door of his station wagon. He kept going back to King and describing how African-Americans, including King, should know their place.
He was a stalwart of the local Republican Party and he could not stop belching disparaging comments about blacks.
Nowadays, no politician ever would be so non-politically correct as to use the “N” word, at least not in public, but the code words he used are everywhere. The “birther” claim that Obama was not born in America, championed by such paragons as Donald Trump, is nothing more than racist claptrap. Ditto: Obama is a Food Stamp Socialist. Obama is a Muslim. Obama’s wife is angry. Obama is a fraud.
Finally, bringing us today back to OC, The Lincoln Club itself long ago was taken over by the True Believers and transformed into a far-right haven. Repeating history, another group of businessmen formed another club to back “moderate” Republicans and their causes. It is called the New Majority. Lincoln Club members immediately saw it was a threat and are trying to join. They want to turn its agenda into their own, again. Same thing, different station.
Their need to hate is too deep. They never stop. Never.
Michael Ray grew up in CdM and now lives in Laguna Beach. He makes a living as a real estate entrepreneur and is involved in many non-profits.