Racism in Paradise



I am writing in response to the letter published by the Laguna Beach Independent on Feb. 10, written by the parents of some of the kids responsible for the recent racist attack on Vasco.

By now, most folks know about the incident. I want to talk here about racism and how it works. One example will suffice. About a year or so ago, Chris Rock did an interview in New York Magazine wherein he shared a story about his mother. When she needed to have a tooth removed, she was forced to go the vet, and then to leave through the back door. His mother, not his grandmother or his great-grandmother. Every time someone uses the N word, he or she reactivates this brutally racist reality that is far from being old news.

What offends me about the parents’ letter is as follows. First, Vasco’s family asked to be left alone and they were disrespected. Second, the parents of the perpetrators admitted that they were ashamed of their boys’ behavior and did not write the incident off as a boyish prank. Bravo.

From hereon in, however, they equivocate. They explain that the boys bought toilet paper and a watermelon so as to TP a girl’s house. Then the letter goes on to insist that the racist act was not premeditated. The decision to target Vasco was made at last minute because the boys were frustrated that the girl’s house was too well lit to TP. This may be true, but it is only trivially true. If the kids decided to target Vasco a week or a few minutes before the incident, the net effect is the same. Additionally, the parents start the letter by saying that they make no excuses for their kids’ behavior and then proceed to set the record straight with a bunch of irrelevant details. Finally, they call the event “ugly.” Sure, it was ugly, but it was more specific than ugly; it was vilely racist.

If the parents of the kids who attacked Vasco are going to engage the community in a serious discussion about racism perhaps they should be less interested in a dubious seeking of absolution and more interested in figuring out why, if the kids intended only a harmless TP-ing of someone’s house, they bought a watermelon. Remember folks that the devil (and god) is in the details.

Lisa Aslanian, Laguna Beach

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