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Don't Compare Santa Monica to 1940s Alabama

March 29, 1992

I am a lifelong (47 years) participant in the daily life of Santa Monica. After reading Jeff Kramer's article concerning J. Morgan Kousser's study of Santa Monica's 1946 behavior in rejecting a districting council election system (Times, March 22), I am left with the feeling of "here we go again" with the shrill, whiny rhetoric of the liberal Establishment.

There probably is a better way to get proper representation in council elections for all of today's various special interest groups in Santa Monica than an at-large system. But for Kramer or Kousser to compare Santa Monica in the late '40s and early '50s to rural Alabama or Mississippi is absurd and designed to fuel racial divisiveness simply to achieve the goals of districting advocates.

In 1954, as a 10-year-old, I delivered leaflets to elect Frank Fernandez to City Council in a predominantly WASP area. Fernandez, a businessman, didn't win--but he didn't cry racism and I wasn't chased off anyone's property. A far cry from Southern hospitality.

In the '50s and early '60s I played Little League, kids' football and basketball with other athletes of all races. At Santa Monica High, all students drank from the same drinking fountains and we conducted exchange assembly programs with Centennial High School from predominantly minority Compton. I lived at 14th and Brentwood Terrace and virtually all minorities were guests at my house--frequently. No crosses were burned on our lawn.

The overwhelmingly white Santa Monica High School elected a black student body president in the late '40s and again in the early '50s. A Latino was elected in the '50s and a student of Japanese ancestry was elected in 1962. We had begun to see ourselves as one community, not several. Our council system at the time encouraged that.

No, Messrs. Kousser and Kramer, contrary to what you might like people to believe, the city--while far from perfect--was a long way from rural Alabama and Mississippi.

To conduct a study using old newspaper articles and apply current politically correct journalistic standards to form conclusions about the type of city Santa Monica was in the late 1940s is negligent in all respects. The kinds of "improvement" in government and race relations that follow such studies often lead to the type of social paralysis we now see on all levels in this country.

In retrospect, it seems we may have been headed in the right direction until the social engineers and journalists got involved.


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