S.E Williams | Contributor
When Riverside City Councilmember Chuck Condor retweeted a meme showing three Black men–one a police officer, one dressed in a business suit, possibly meant to depict an attorney, and a young Black man, intimating visually the probability he was a criminal—there was little doubt regarding it’s racist symbolism.
The image alone spoke volumes, but for those who refused to read between the lines of the message implied by the image, it included verbiage that made it clear Black men are arrested because of the life choices they make. In other words, it implied it is the choices made by Black men, not a system of institutional and systemic racism, which determines the outcomes of Black lives in America. This is typical White Supremacist propaganda.
With heightened awareness of the role far too many in power play in perpetuating negative stereotypes and racists myths.
Many in the Riverside community and beyond were angered, though not surprised, by such an overt display of insensitivity by an elected official, especially during a time when Americans are calling for change.
It was the posting of this racist meme that reverberated around the City of Riverside and across the region in recent weeks which has led to escalating calls for Condor’s resignation.
When fellow Councilmember Gaby Plascencia called him out about the Twitter post, Condor subsequently removed the retweeted post and offered the usual, panned political apology.
He most probably expected his offended peers and constituents to move begrudgingly on as has happened in similar instances involving politicians as demonstrated time and time again regarding the president of the United States. However, as Governor Gavin Newsom expressed recently–this is a different time.
Although Condor has his supporters, many of whom spoke in support of him at a special meeting on Thursday, June 11, 2020 testifying to his decency and goodness, trying to assure those who spoke out against him of what an honorable man he is; while others attempted a tit-for-tat defense, choosing to point the finger at Councilwoman Plascencia instead, appearing to trivialize her stand against Condor’s racist action and calling for his resignation, as if it was merely some form of benign political infighting.
Others, however disagreed.
Many in the community believe the country is changing. Many constituents of all races are no longer willing to look the other way or remain silent because they now understanding
to do so makes them complicit in sanctioning and accepting such passive aggressive racist behavior. The consensus is, politicians who in the past were given a pass will no longer be granted such dispensation.
What is most ironic about Condor is during the recent election cycle when he was running to represent Riverside’s Ward 4, he was quick to callout another candidate in the race to represent the city’s 7th Ward.
Dave Denilofs, whose overt racists comments were so beyond the pale for Condor to not have spoken out against him could have damaged his own chances for election.
Denilofs’ purportedly called for the execution of Muslims, people who wave a Mexican flag in the U.S. and those who made laws where it’s safe for Muslims. He also allegedly called Black people the N-word, and insisted the president implement martial law and kill 6 million people—a barely disguised reference to the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.
To many it seemed now that Condor is safely ensconced in the council seat he coveted, he felt free to let his ‘true colors shine through.’ Considering what Denilofs is accused of saying, it seems Condor and his supporters feel his Tweet pales in comparison. Not so.
However during the special meeting, Corey Jackson, the first African American elected to the Riverside County Board of Education, President of the Moreno Valley City-Wide Coalition, and Political Action Chair of the Riverside NAACP made it clear Black people and others in Riverside County are no longer willing to settle for degrees of racism.
Speaking on behalf of the NAACP he declared, “We must be clear, the post was racist propaganda and it was evil, because racism is evil.”
He continued, “There is no such thing as a post that is a little racist. Racism must be condemned and acknowledged, at all times no matter where it takes place. No one should hold elective office when they are ignorant or supportive of racist ideas because racism is a cancer. Therefore, when it is identified, it must be acted on aggressively, until it is destroyed. Racism kills, he adamantly declared. “These actions can no longer be tolerated, and any time any leader of this community posts racist things, racist propaganda, they will be called out and they will be held accountable.”
In the face of such mounting criticism Condor has claimed he is a victim of character assassination which seems a petty defense when compared to Black men are actually being assassinated in the streets of this nation almost daily. Critics say Condor does not get a pass because he–and his supporters– believe his re-tweeting of the offensive post was only slightly offensive or misinterpreted or not intended to be insulting. He does not get to be the judge of what is offensive to the Black community, feign ignorance or be ignorant and insensitive to issues of race—he was elected to serve all the people.
Councilmember Plascencia and others who raised their voice during the special meeting are not alone among those calling for Condor’s resignation.
California Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside) recently shared his thoughts about the Condor tweet and recalling the city’s racist history, joined the call for Condor’s resignation.
“Maybe I’ll start by quoting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,” he began. “I saw a quote of his in an opinion piece he did in the LA Times opinion section. He made reference to racism in America [being] like dust that even if it’s everywhere and even if you might be choking on it, you don’t see it until you let the sunshine in. I thought that was a very good way to frame racism. When I read that, I thought it is true, and it is a good way of describing racism.”
Assemblymember Medina has lived in Riverside over 40 years. “I was a UCR student, a high school teacher and am an elected official. Unfortunately, I have seen racism in many different places, firsthand.”
Medina who previously taught in the Riverside Unified School District recalled a recent incident at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School. “We saw it most recently with students who posed with the Confederate flag and swastika at the school.”
He went on to recall how when they were naming King High School years ago, parents protested naming the school after the nation’s premiere Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “They voiced their opinions it would be detrimental to have that name on their children’s transcripts.”
Medina continued, “I’ve seen police shootings since I was an undergraduate at UCR. Like Tyisha Miller, 20 something years ago. So, Riverside has unfortunately a good history and a not-so-good history,” he maintained.
“We are in a moment today that is a turning point, not unlike the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s,” he continued, “I think what is happening today, what happened with George Floyd [in Minnesota], ignited young people especially. Young people make what is happening in the United States today a turning point.”
He explained, “If we go back three years with the election of Donald Trump, I saw, like most other people, hate crimes on the rise. People having the freedom to express their racist opinions or thoughts much more openly. I right away took a stance and I shared with young people what we needed to do is to call people out when they did it.”
To help dramatize his point, Medina described an incident involving a young girl who got on the Metrolink train in Riverside and the conductor and the security person made references to that train going to Tijuana because it had so many Latinos on it.
“I took it upon myself,” he stated, “to call Metrolink and I had the young lady who heard those remarks, along with the head of Metrolink, in my Assembly office, and got to watch the Metrolink official make an apology to that young lady.”
Medina shared other examples of his commitment to speak out when he’s witnessed issues of racism, adding, “I tell young people that’s what they need to do. That is why we had a hearing at Cal State San Bernardino on the State of Hate not too many months back.”
Cal State San Bernardino students who attended according to Medina, were very much a mix of African Americans, Latino and White.
During the State of Hate hearing Medina said he again stressed to those in attendance the importance of calling people out, when they say and/or do racist things.
“I have been in the practice of calling people out and telling other people to call it out even
if it’s something as minimal as being forced to wait for a table at a restaurant. Denny’s comes to mind,” he recalled. “I’s happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to other people.”
“We need to call people out,” he emphasized again.
“I’ve been telling young people that for the last three years, certainly during the years Trump’s been in White House. So, when this happened,” he said referring to Condor’s retweet, “Wow! It’s a moment. And, I think young people like Gaby Placencia on the city council and Linda Aguilar, and Corey Jackson, especially young people, are no longer willing to just stand by and allow racist things to happen without comment.”
“I think Chuck Condor, a man whom I do not know nor do I know much about, but I did see it [the Tweet] and agree it was reflective of the dark part of the history of the United States and the racism that is shown and displayed. So, I did something yesterday that I have not done in my seven years as a State Assemblymember, I joined and called for his resignation.”
Medina agreed if someone made a racial slur or posted something like that on their job, they would be in violation of both state and federal law which requires work environments be free of any form of discrimination and yet, we have elected officials doing things like this and often getting away with it. As an elected official the whole city of Riverside is Condor’s workspace.
“I agree people have been released from their jobs when they have done or said these kinds of things. I would say unfortunately, we do not have those kinds of mechanisms for elected officials. According to Medina in his seven years in Sacramento the legislature has struggled with what to do in this regard even, he said, in relation to colleagues who cross different lines. “The law remains that there is not a lot that we can do legally until someone is convicted.”
“We must pick up the spoils” he continued. “I think public opinion is important. That is why I think what happened . . . at the city council meeting is important and that we continue to hold elected officials accountable.”
Speaking to the lack of substantive action taken by the Riverside City Council in the wake of Condor’s racist Tweet he noted, “What I observed watching the city council meeting, and I did watch all the public statements and continued watching to the end, there has been no action taken against Condor by the council.”
Medina also had a message for the young people who are doing exactly what Medina feels is important at this time and are out there on the frontline standing up and speaking out at the council meetings.
“I would continue to encourage them to make their voices heard like they have been for the last three weeks. Continue to do that,” he encouraged and added, “I think that has caught the attention of the country and perhaps of the world. It is clear, we are at some kind of turning point now.”
According to Medina such efforts must be continuous, and he encouraged everyone, “not to let up.”
“I have heard young people, including those at the candlelight vigil I attended, encourage [other] young people to go and register, and to vote, I think that is also important.”
He ended by encouraging young people to, “just keep doing what they’re doing.”