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It Was a Friendly, Smiling Face We Saw, but It Was the Face of Racism

April 18, 1987

Mark Heisler finds "unconvincing as a racist" Mr. Al Campanis, a man who stated that blacks may not possess the "necessities" for management positions. Heisler found Mr. Campanis " . . . too warm a man, anything but mean-spirited" to be called a racist. Obviously, Heisler is one of those people who prefers his racists nasty and swinging ax handles.

The truth is, what the nation saw on national television was the face of racism. Friendly, a smile, a pat on the back and the cold determination of ethnic inferiority that demeans us all and lessens the spirit of brotherhood.

The Campanis incident provides a glimpse of the truly monumental problem facing those discriminated against today. The era of overt racism has slid peacefully, for the most part, into an era of covert racism maintained by those whose interest lies in the all-male, all-white status quo. Discrimination's most overt sign now is silence and omission rather than rage and commission. A pat on the back has replaced a pat on the head.

These are times when all of us must work to continue Jackie Robinson's quest. The work involves changing the way we think and the quest is to reinforce the foresighted notion of equality. In firing Al Campanis, the Dodgers rejected not an idea of the past, but a belief that survives today. Their next step should be to reinforce the spirit of tomorrow.

GARY J. CORTESE

Santa Barbara

Editor's note: Viewpoint received slightly more than 175 letters in the wake of the Campanis affair , considerably more than on any other issue in recent years. The views expressed broke down roughly as follows: 54% deplored his remarks and applauded his forced resignation; 26% defended Campanis, the man, but not his remarks; 9% deplored his remarks but disagreed with his resignation; 6% defended his remarks (and in most of these cases went far beyond them); 3% blamed Ted Koppel for the whole incident; 1.7% saw it as a "free speech" issue. One writer called it a Communist plot.

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