Mayor Heidi Harmon’s comments are racist and sexist

July 26, 2019

Mayor Heidi Harmon

OPINION by T. KEITH GURNEE

In reiterating her comment that public art in San Luis Obispo should not include “monuments to old white men”, Mayor Heidi Harmon has completed a trifecta of identity politics invectives: in one sentence she made a statement that was ageist, racist, and sexist.

And not only did our SLO City Council tolerate her sentiments, it embraced them.

Rather than monuments to people, Heidi wants monuments that celebrate “ideas and ideals.” But the last time I looked, it’s people who have ideas and articulate ideals. Yes, people have flaws. Nobody is perfect, but sometimes imperfect people have great ideas and accomplish great things.

The project that spurred her remarks was the proposed sculpture of Teddy Roosevelt to be placed in Mitchell Park where he visited in 1903 after getting off the train and addressing the people of San Luis Obispo on his way to meet John Muir on a tour of Yosemite Valley. Now Teddy was not only a person with grand “ideas,” he had the unique ability to accomplish them.

What about the “idea” of establishing the National Park System? Right after reading Heidi’s latest remarks, I was watching the PBS presentation of the Ken Burns film “The National Parks: America’s Greatest Idea” that attributed the accomplishment of that “idea” to none other than Theodore Roosevelt?

What about the “idea” of an American president interceding into a war between two faraway foreign nations and negotiating a peaceful ending to the 1904-1905 Russo Japanese War for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906? He was the first American ever to receive such an award.

What about Roosevelt’s “ideas” of completing the “path between the seas” with the Panama Canal, his “trust busting” under the Sherman Antitrust Act, and his accomplishments in regulating safe food and drugs for the American public?

And Heidi, what about his founding of the original Progressive Party in 1912? Of course, that was the true Progressive Party, not the twisted one of today.

When the issue of public art returns to the SLO City Council, hopefully they will have the temerity and courage to admit their mistake and right their wrong.

Not only should they allow the statue of Teddy Roosevelt to proceed, they should also start the dialogue of erecting a statue to Maxine Lewis, a remarkable African-American woman who was a hero to our local poor and indigent from the 1960s into the 1980s.

As the founder of the local anti-poverty nonprofit organizations Grassroots and Grassroots II, she struggled to raise funds to feed, clothe, and serve the needs of the needy. My wife cooked the first of what became many Thanksgiving turkey dinners served by Maxine to the poor at the Grassroots office on South Higuera Street right next to Ben Franklin’s sandwich shop. What a proper place for a statue of that great lady!

But I digress. Lo and behold, right when I was sending this to CCN, up pops the blockbuster CCN article on the SLO Police Chief and her missing gun.

At a time when our law enforcement personnel needs more support than ever, is this what we do to support them?

Heidi’s intolerance of statues commemorating famous people is one thing But our mayor and council chooses to shelter a documented woman-beater on their staff while coddling the gun cover-up of their police chief?

The cover-up always gets them. And how’s that for one of Heidi’s great ideas?

Madam mayor and council members, get a grip. Do something. Take responsibility. When the time comes to reconsider your public art policy and the future of your police chief, please reverse your bad ideas.


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AmericaTheFree

It’s “old white men” who govern our country, it’s “old white men” that head churches that dictate morals, it’s “old white men” that run the major corporations that rule this country, it was “old white men” that perpetrated and succeeded in taking this country from it’s indigent peoples and it’s “old white men” that can’t seem to shake the current form of nationalism that reeks of racism. What Heidi stated isn’t racism (or ageism, or sexist), it’s fact!

Now lets look at the “object” of discussion, Teddy Roosevelt, shall we? Lets start off by stating the fact(s) that he was an outspoken white supremist, believed that a woman’s place was at home, was against civil rights and equality, thought blacks were intellectually inferior and should not strive for political and social equality.

Teddy was also a follower of the sociologist Edward A. Ross, an early innovator of the eugenics movement and the coiner of “race suicide” (low birthrates among native-born Americans (whites), combined with higher birthrates among immigrants was his definition of “race suicide”).

When lynching’s surged across the South, Roosevelt reacted not by targeting the lyncher’s but instead blaming the violence on black men accused of committing rape. It was during his presidency that Jim Crow became a durable institution in the South, a legacy that endures to this day.

It wasn’t just blacks he lacked tolerance for:

“If all our nice friends in Beacon Street, and Newport, and Fifth Avenue, and Philadelphia, have one child, or no child at all, while all the Finnegans, Hooligans, Antonios, Mandelbaums and Rabinskis have eight, or nine, or 10 — it’s simply a question of the multiplication table. How are you going to get away from it?” (told to Teddy’s close friend of 40+ years novelist Owen Wister). So, if you are of Irish, Italian, Jewish, and/or Polish descent, he was talking about you.

So, lets forget about not putting up another monument to “old white men”, lets not put one up for a racist! Deal?

Also, stick a fork in your “campaign” would ya T’? Not because it’s done, nope! Because it’s overcooked and really startin’ to smell of burnt sour grapes (whew, some smelly a$$ chit there Bubba)! But keep posting though, please! It’s always fun to hear you fume over spilt milk….


mercut1469

Well, TR’s record on race is just about the same as every other American politician of that day. Woodrow Wilson was a flaming racist and screened “Birth of a Nation” in the White House. Nevertheless, TR was still an effective leader and his policies toward corporations led to serious reforms which ultimately helped create the middle class—his cousin, FDR, would finish the job in the 1930’s. African-Americans would later benefit from those policies as many merged into that middle class.


As MLK said, the arc of the moral universe is long but tends toward justice.


Not sure there is anything good in a small city blocking statues toward those that have, in one way or another, despite their flaws, helped to tilt the world toward that justice.


AmericaTheFree

Absolutely correct. But to ignore those “flaws”, especially those that disenfranchised millions of people, yes American Citizens, while erecting a monument that glorifies an individual without addressing those “flaws” is not truly representative of the individual being glorified while further clouding the true history of America.

“History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.” (George Santayana) I would add to that quote “…pack of lies, and omissions


sbjcl

Keith is spot on. It has become quite obvious that Heidi and her cronies are completely delusional. Maybe all the pot smoking and late night frolicking has finally caught up. The city employed convicted thug, Lying Chief of Police and bozo city manager Johnson are all overpaid pre madonnas and need to be removed immediately. It is high time the Council start paying attention to running the business of city and quit being led by the nose by an incompetent staff. The citizens of SLO should be outraged.


George Garrigues

Hm. Yes, I don’t think anybody should denigrate old white males, being one myself at age 87 with a decided lack of melanin.


Still, the mayor (despite her ageism) might be on to something when she lobbies against any statue of any person, DWM or not. If we could just narrow it down to that sharpened focus, SLO folks might actually agree on a policy.


oxforduniversity

There are plenty people we can put monuments for. Example we had Ronald Reagan that came to several times to San Luis Obispo in the 70’s, president General Ford, president George Bush, we’ve also had Ron Paul here, Rod Serling, Dennis Kucinich, the famous Marlboro Man who lived here, even presidential candidate Ben Carlson, Mark Levin, Clark Howard, Rush Limbaugh has been here, Governor Schwarzenegger, Michael Savage, California historian Huell Howser, performers Journey and Eddie Van Halen who both lived here in short periods and etc more famous people. Are we supposed to not think about people that contributed to our society that were not famous at all? I’m sure the mayor would love a monument of herself here and she’s not really famous and if you disagree with that she would call you a racist. If you don’t agree with her ideology, you’re considered a racist and a xenophobe which is now a democrat made-up word.


Mjd

Folks,


I AGREE with Mr. T Keith Gurnee!


The whacky, far-left SLO City Council, under ‘Hanoi Heidi’ Harmon, is pursuing an overly-ideological agenda, and their decisions are corrupt and out-of-the-mainstream. This latest display of ageism, sexism and racism is exhibit one on why Harmon and her ilk need to be removed from the body politic.


Although Harmon is the leader of these morons, I think people should also hold the four others accountable as well. Aaron Gomez, Carlyn Christianson, Erika Stewart, and Andy Pease also must share some of the blame for this nonsense, and they all have contributed to the recent decline in the quality-of-life of SLO residents.


It is ironic to no end that Ms. Harmon, who purports to be against racism and sexism, is, in fact, one of the largest purveyors of sex and gender hatred here on the Central Coast. I remember a while back Harmon spoke out in favor of civil discourse in our community, then, at the first opportunity, she violated the very tenets she espoused by attacking her political opponent and stormed out of a civil political debate.


Get it? Heidi Harmon consistently shows her hypocrisy and immaturity as she strains to fullfil her public position, and she is not a person fit to lead our once-fair city. Harmon accepted reelection campaign donations from drug dealers, and then designed a process for marijauna dispenseries which rewarded her contributors. Harmon accepts out-of-town developer money, then approves their outsized developments and even waives the requirements that they offset the negative consquences of their developments in another political quid pro quo.


All of the baloney surrounding this flawed statue policy, the crisis of the gun losing police chief, the marijauna corruption, the ‘in bed with out-of-town developers’, and all the other nonsense regarding Harmon’s lack of leadership ability goes away when the voters of San Luis Obispo rise up and confront Harmon and her ilk on their unwise and unsustainable stunts. We deserve leadership which reflects OUR values, not the values of the whacky progressives from San Francisco.


Speak truth to power.


Reject Heidi Harmon, not Teddy Roosevelt!


kenny113

You have gotta get a life Keith. Go back to work. Find a hobby. Take up sailing. Tour Europe. Something. Anything. Just stop spending your life spitting negativity out into the world. It’s not healthy for you or for anyone who has to listen to you. Get well.


TKG

Kenny, I’ve got a great life! Get used to it. I’m not going away anytime soon…


oldtimer

I’m glad Keith is at least bringing contrast to this issue as dialogue, the mayor is acting like she is progressive, yet making a festering swamp worse and hindering dialogue. And covering up corruption for anyone city paid; well a few of them be it ;black, white, latino, Jewish, muslim, conservative or liberal. She is also hindering free speech with blanket comments; like the recent internet hater comment. Constituencies with opinions aren’t haters, they’re entitled Americans. Da Dow, Park, and Coroner are still all over payed and employed. And slo police cheif has her job, not good!


kettle

Speaking of Roosevelt and race:


Minnie M. (Geddings) Cox (1869–1933) was an American teacher who was the first African-American woman to serve as a postmaster in the United States. She became the center of a national controversy in the early 1900s when local white citizens attempted to force her out of her job.


Cox was considered an excellent postmaster. During the Roosevelt administration, however, local white citizens began to agitate to expel African-Americans from good jobs such as the one Cox held. The white supremacist politician James K. Vardaman led a targeted campaign in his newspaper, The Greenwood Commonwealth, to force her resignation. Eventually the citizens of Indianola voted for Cox to resign a year before her commission was due to expire. Cox initially refused to step down, although she let it be known that she would not try for reappointment after her current commission expired.


As threats against Cox escalated and both the mayor and sheriff refused to protect her, she changed her mind and offered her resignation effective Jan. 1, 1903. President Roosevelt refused to accept her resignation and instead closed the Indianola post office, indicating that it would not reopen until Cox could safely resume her duties. The president also ordered the U.S. Attorney General to prosecute those Indianola citizens who had threatened violence against Cox.The situation became a national news story, sparking a debate about “race, states’ rights, and federal power”.


When Cox’s appointment expired in 1904, the Indianola post office reopened with a different postmaster. Cox and her husband returned to Indianola, where they opened the Delta Penny Savings Bank, one of the earliest black-owned banks in the state. They also founded one of the first black-owned insurance companies in the United States to offer whole life insurance, the Mississippi Life Insurance Company. They were strong supporters of black businesses in the state.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnie_M._Cox


George Garrigues

Thanks for this, although it is not quite to the point, nor does it DIRECTLY reply to the original op-ed.


oldtimer

Rightly, but defending Teddy; is an awesome Human, as this shows again and again his record stands pretty firm. God pray we have another free mind in our Gov in all our lifetimes. What’s the Mayors issue, is what needs to really be published in depth.


mercut1469

You’re absolutely right Gurnee. I mean, after all, what chance have “old white men” ever had in this world? They have been consistent victims of racism and sexism throughout history.


oldtimer

Yes, Teddy was white and I sense his era and timing, but him being here could shed light on more local nature preservation, AS WE are known here in our ranching community, we are losing to outside excessive wealth. Teddy was against monopolization and greed, saw beauty here, most likely hated Hurst thank goodness. He is a symbol for our roots, a diverse Asian, black and Eastern European community originally. And Chumash firstly. Just because Teddy was white is a BS; racist remark.


tosmon

Are we going to raise statues for achievers or victims? Being a victim isn’t an achievement.


Rich in MB

Slo should not be honoring Hispanic Women.


I’m not interested in seeing art work from Gay Blacks.


Can you believe there were so many Asian Transsexuals at that ristorante last night?


I can’t believe my daughter is dating a Mexican.


If you don’t like the above comments…why would you approve of the Racist Comments from the SLO City Mayor?


mercut1469

Come on, I don’t agree with her stance either, but to say her comments are racist or sexist is ridiculous. Her comments are stupid and without merit, but you’re not going to get me to bite on it as some kind of discrimination against whites. This entire white grievance thing in this nation is ludicrous. I’m an old white man and I’ve had every advantage in the world—good schooling, good jobs that paid well, etc.


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