In Laguna Beach, we like to think we are different. We welcome all types of people: old, young, gay, straight, male, female, black, brown—everyone.
But we are wrong.
Racism still is very much alive in Laguna Beach. Some of it is the casually passive kind, unstated and not seemingly pernicious. But that is only some of it. Other parts are as vicious as a deep Southern 1910 hanging of a black man seen looking the “wrong way” at a white girl.
The date was June 13, 2019, and I was watching the NBA finals from my home in north Laguna. It was to be the last game between the Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors. With me were my long-time girlfriend, Kim Bowen, and a new couple we had recently met at a local pub. We liked them, and they were basketball freaks too, so we invited them to watch the game. The husband also brought his brother.
The game was more than thrilling: 18 lead changes, nine ties, and not decided until the last seconds. The final score was 114-110, Toronto, with all five of us screaming our heads off. Here the players were, men who had trained their entire lives for moments like this, moments denied most mortals. The players were there because they had work ethics second to none, practice, practice, weight lifting, over-coming injuries and surgeries, concentration and sacrifice.
At the end, both winners and losers were interviewed. One winning player, towering over the petite female interviewer, was utterly spent. He was covered in sweat and raw with emotion, but managed to speak through his panting breaths. “Man, we laid it all on the floor. Know what I’m saying? Know what I’m saying? We kept workin’, kept workin’.”
Then suddenly from one of the two brothers with us, “Listen to that guy, it’s eh eh, oohf ooh, eh eh.” Then both brothers mimicked chimpanzee behavior, thrusting their fingernails into their armpits.”Ooh ooh, eh eh.”
Another moment like that: my home, a Laker game, watching with friends, the camera kept panning to Magic Johnson as he cheered on his team. Then from one of my friends, “For a n*****, Magic sure is smart.”
“Jim, what did you just say?”
“Magic is a smart n*****. He knows to hire smart Jews to manage his money. That’s how he got rich.”
- A local black friend will not eat bananas in public, ever, or buy or eat watermelons, ever. His explanation: “They’re racial stereotypes. I have kids. You think I want them to go through this?”
- Eighteen months ago, a group of Laguna teenagers bought a watermelon, drove up the street where a black teenager resided with his parents, and threw the watermelon at their house while shouting racial slurs.
- From my friend Kerwin, executor of my estate, when I asked wouldn’t it be fun to just take off, drive all over the country, maybe end up in DC or NYC; he said, “Are you crazy? I can’t do that. As a black man, I can’t even get across Arizona without being stopped. Forget Texas entirely and for that matter, any southern state. If I go north, say through Wyoming or Wisconsin, you think it would be much better? And you think Laguna is better? Notice how I almost always wear a suit and tie, and drive below the speed limit. Notice that?”
- At a the end of a recent presidential fundraiser in Laguna for a black candidate, the young white valet who got my car said, “Jesus, you think they’ll elect another n*****?”
I could cite more of this behavior, but I will end with a statistical fact: Laguna Beach has the least racial diversity of any city in Orange County. It is almost pure white.
My friend Kerwin has two little girls and lives elsewhere, but could afford Laguna. I asked him why he just didn’t move here. You know, I said, the beach, hiking, life style, and all that. His response, ”You think I want my girls growing up in an all white neighborhood? That they should copycat whites? What does that teach them?”
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