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Al Martinez

I have a feeling that the Jonathan Club is going to do all it can to remain exactly what it is. : Three Jews, Two Asians and a Mexican

August 08, 1985|Al Martinez

The Jonathan Club of Santa Monica is once more fighting back against accusations that it discriminates on the basis of race and national origin. Just recently the club proudly announced that among its members are three Jews, two Koreans and a Mexican.

Well, actually, it announced the three Jews and two Asians. However, I know for a fact that one light-colored Mexican is also among the club's estimated 3,000 members.

That brings to two-tenths of 1% the known representation of minorities in a private organization to which the state of California is willing to lease public-trust land.

All of this was revealed at a recent meeting of the California Coastal Commission, which voted to allow the Jonathan Club to expand onto state land if the club adopted a policy of nondiscrimination.

Among those at the meeting was David Lehrer who, in addition to being an attorney for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, is also spokesman for a coalition of Jewish, Latino, Asian, black and women's groups.

I have known David for many years and know that he will often skip breakfast and work late in order to shish-kebab a bigot. He can identify an anti-Semite in a room full of liberals while blindfolded, picking the racist out by only his vibrations, like a tiger shark selects its next meal.

"All they (the club lawyers) have to do is say they don't discriminate and they can get the land," Lehrer told me the other day. "But they won't even do that. That's about as clear an admission of discrimination as you'll ever see."

The Jonathan people must realize that they have potentially big problems in Lehrer, so they tried to soothe him by inviting him to the Santa Monica facility. There David was told of the three Jews and two Koreans.

"They didn't mention blacks or women," he said, "which probably means they don't have any. If they had, I'm sure they'd have told me about it."

I'll never believe that the Jonathan Club doesn't discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex or ethnicity. The most I have ever gotten out of them is that anyone can apply for membership.

That doesn't mean that anyone can actually join , only that they can fill out an application, a right not dissimilar to allowing blacks into an exclusive restaurant but not letting them eat. One thing at a time.

What rankles is not only that the club probably will not allow minorities to join (with the exception of those three Jews, two Asians and a Mexican) but, as far as I'm concerned, it also flaunts a discriminatory stance and blocks off the ocean at the same time.

Fifty years ago, American author and social activist Charlotte Gilman wrote, "I ran against a prejudice that quite cut off the view."

She wasn't talking about the Jonathan Club, but her observation applies. The club sits like a pimple on the nose along Pacific Coast Highway, daring anyone to challenge its existence. But most of the potential challengers are busy opposing racial segregation in South Africa. Bigotry is always easier to fight when it belongs to someone else.

The city of Santa Monica, once known as the People's Republic for its liberal attitudes, is not likely to be in the forefront of those who want to close the Jonathan Club. Just last year, in fact, the City Council signed a long-term lease with the club on land it already occupies.

The rationale among the council's liberals was that if they hadn't signed, the club would have just gone to court and won the case anyhow. It was, of course, "personally repugnant" to them, but personal repugnancy, thank God, has a way of dissipating overnight.

I imagine that the Jonathan's attorneys are discussing at this very moment methods by which they can circumvent the non-discrimination demands of the California Coastal Commission.

One way would be to welcome into their membership another Mexican, a bisexual black and a Native American midget from Arizona.

By combining two sexes in one black and claiming two minorities in one for the Native American, the Jonathan Club could then claim three Jews, two Asians, two Mexicans, one black, a woman, a gay, an Indian and one physically deprived out-of-stater.

Even that could be condensed by signing up a handicapped bisexual female black who is converted to Judaism. It would be nice if she were married to a Puerto Rican, but you can't have everything.

I have a feeling that the Jonathan Club is going to do all it can to remain exactly what it is, in which case David Lehrer's coalition ought to simply take a new approach. Not a demand to allow minorities into the club, but a demand to not let the racists out.

Then we will at least know where some of them are at all times and, given the nature of a world more aware of human rights, I doubt that anyone will miss them.

Their kind of prejudice has blocked the view of a decent world long enough.

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