Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ailin' Ladd

Anne Arundel County, MD, is known for several things.  The City of Annapolis, our state capital, is located therein, as is the US Naval Academy.

It is the county with the most miles of shoreline of any county in the United States, being a peninsula that butts right on out into the Chesapeake Bay.

Most people call it by its real name, Anne Arundel, but many use the local term "Anne Darundel," and no one can figure out why that is.

It's a big place, running from just south of Baltimore City all the way down to the farm fields of Calvert County. 
I have some friends who live down that way, none of them members of the Anne Arundel County Council.  Certainly, my friends do not number among them one Richard "Dick" Ladd, who, at a recent meeting of the council, found it necessary to use a racial slur to describe the Asians he encountered while fighting in Viet Nam.  He is a member of the county council, you understand. He is a Republican from the Broadneck area, home to gigantic traffic backups in summertime when people wish to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but can't for a while due to traffic.
The big deal on the Council now is that a member lost his seat when he went to jail for five months because he did not file a tax return.  At the rate at which things are moving, that councilman, Daryl D. Jones, might be back in town and out of the hoosegow before the remaining members can settle on a successor.  Citizens from the area he represented need to have a replacement in place so that their concerns can be heard, but right now, the last two meetings of the council have been snarled up with votes on the matter, all ending in a 3-3 deadlock between supporters of former state Sen. Michael J. Wagner from Ferndale, a Caucasian guy, and Peter I. Smith, a Marine reservist from Severn who is African-American as is Jones.
It may be that each of these men, Wagner and Smith, has three strong supporters on the council, all voting strictly on the basis of their qualifications.  It would be nice to think so, but...
The other day at a community forum to discuss all this, "Dick" Ladd was asked questions about diversity on the now-all-white-all-male council, and, as the Baltimore SUN reported, Ladd "stormed" out.  Give him props for showing up in the first place - he was the only member of the county council to do so - but then, when the questioning got too hot for him, he paraded on out upon being asked to explain why he used a disgusting word for people of Asian descent.
"I don't believe there is a racist or biased bone in my body," said the man who called people "gooks." "There's nothing I can do that's going to please some of you here in this room. … I think I better leave before I say much more — before I incriminate myself."

The newspaper also reported a curious statement made by his fellow Republican council member, John J. Grasso, from Glen Burnie.  The SUN said Grasso said he was invited to the forum but forgot to attend, but was "saddened to have missed it. I would have enjoyed a challenging debate, particularly with the folks who were picking on Dick Ladd, because … every time you bring up race, that's a real big sign that you're a racist yourself," said Grasso. "It's all for one and one for all in Anne Arundel County."

Ah ha.  We've seen this before.  Someone points out something offensive, and the defense is that that someone must be doing the same thing in the first place.  It's like, you see a guy rob a bank, and you call 911, and they say, "Oh, you must be into robbing banks yourself."

OK.  Once and for all, Mr Grasso, I'm pretty sure that calling someone out for being a racist does not make one a racist.  

The shoe doesn't necessarily fit.

Back to those who were actually at the debate, Ladd was asked why he would use such disparaging language, at a government function no less, and he said,"I was asked to come here to explain my role in government knowing full well I might be asked questions of this sort. Perhaps I made an error in judgment. I do apologize to the Asian community. I should have known this was going to blow up in my face."

Then, even though he was looking down as he paced and spoke, he really stepped into it.  A man named Mark Chang, a community and constituent services representative from the county executives's office who is Asian-American, was there at the forum. And so Ladd turned to Chang and said, "I am very, very sorry to you."

For those who might not live, work or shop in a diverse society, this is that sort of over-the-top association by designation that is so off-putting.  It's like asking an African-American friend to show you how to moondance, or asking an Italian-American friend for their spaghetti sauce recipe - just because they are African-American or Italian-American. That's the difference.  You don't find the one person in the room who happens to be of the race you calumniated and apologize to them on behalf of all similar people everywhere.  It's another form of racism to do that, to my mind.
Richard "Dick" Ladd

So Ladd left, saying, "I am clear that I angered some of you today. This is a very difficult issue for all of us…Maybe I was ill advised to come down."

No, sir.  You were ill-advised to demean people with your ill-chosen language, and ill-advised to make grandstanding, apparently insincere apologies, and maybe ill-advised to enter politics.  And I think you do have some racist or biased bones in you, but I'll tell you what.

Do something to prove that wrong, and I will apologize to you.  Not to all fools, but you and you alone. 

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