It is offensive that the Independent has given a column with the title “Common Sense” to a polarizing piece written by Jennifer Welsh Zeiter. Since George Floyd’s killing, the Independent publishes its first article on race with Zeiter’s attack on Black Lives Matters as a threat to “the soul of America.” Does that reflect the values of Laguna Beach? Does it reflect honestly on the history of our nation? The answer is that it reflects a deeply disturbing part of our history. Zeiter repeats long-standing, paranoiac tropes of the John Birch Society and the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade. As the history shows, similar arguments were brandished by white “Citizens Councils.” Perhaps the paper is unaware that organizations such as the KKK characterized the civil rights movement and those pushing for racial equality and justice as “socialists and communists.” Indeed, this is what was hurled against Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Perhaps the author and editor did not realize the historical connection here and that it was white supremacist organizations that called for the end of civil rights legislation because of its “communist” inspiration.
The author wrote of BLM’s “destroying American culture and history,” such that even Jesus may be next. How inflammatory. Is the author and the paper suggesting that to recognize America’s awful history of slavery, Jim Crow, and current discrimination is being anti-Christian and against Jesus Christ? Zeiter cherry picks quotes from young BLM leaders without any quote of the organization’s mission nor any mention of why young people—black and white—have taken to the streets to defend black lives—their fundamental civil rights. Nor does Zeiter deign to mention any of the black lives lost in whose names the movement was founded and acts—the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others, other than her acknowledgement that there are “instances of racism.”
One of the strongest arguments for Black Lives Matter is this column and the paper presenting it as “common sense.” The Independent did solicit a Guest Column, written by Jean Hastings Ardell, an author and respected local community leader. Noticeably, Ardell’s measured response is configured at the bottom right of the page. It does not share the same prominence, much less the heading “Common Sense.”
Greg Shaffer, Laguna Beach