Any discussion about the criminal justice system needs to start and end with an acknowledgment of the role racism plays in the United States. The electoral contest for County District Attorney in San Diego is no exception.
Now that billionaire George Soros is being accused of fomenting anarchy by supporting an anti-establishment candidate, this discussion needs to be expanded to include the stereotype of the rich Jew as an evil “other.” Imposing his image on pictures of “Antifa” burning American flags certainly meets that criteria. She doesn’t even have to use the word “Jew”, wink, wink.
I don’t believe appointed incumbent DA Summer Stephan and her backers in the law enforcement establishment think of themselves as racists or anti-Semites. I’m sure they’ll tell you some of their best friends are people of color. I’m sure our interim DA means well when she speaks of dealing with implicit bias. I’m sure she’s horrified by reading accounts of the Holocaust.
Actions, however, speak louder than words.
Summer Stephan’s campaign (this is not coming from a supposedly non-affiliated committee) has no problem using the baked-in fears of the ‘other,’ long promoted by racist extremists to drive white voters to the polls. It’s as plain as the nose on your face.
The incumbent’s refusal to participate in a debate sponsored by the NAACP and the cancellation of an event honoring past African-American police officers featuring an appearance by Jones-Wright send a message cloaked the envelope of racism.
From 2006-2016, for every one white juvenile charged as an adult in San Diego by the DA’s office through a direct file (meaning without asking permission from a judge), there were 5 Latino kids and 12 Black kids. I could go on for a few thousand more words about this topic, but face the facts: racism is a big problem.
There’s a reason San Diego gets called “the Mississippi of the West” in the Black community.
The layout of neighborhoods in our city has deep roots in the discriminatory housing practices of the not-so-distant past. In many of its neighborhoods, restrictions on who could buy homes were explicitly written into a property’s deeds by a community’s developer.
The long history of anti-Semitism in San Diego (Jews weren’t allowed to live in La Jolla prior to 1964), coupled with the 41% increase in anti-Semitic incidents locally last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, provide fertile ground the Stephan campaign’s sowing the impression of Soros as a threat:
Forty-five of the incidents were in San Diego: 25 reports of harassment (up from 21 in 2016) and 20 of vandalism (up from nine in 2016).
ADL officials attributed the spike to a variety of factors, including social media, the invigoration of extremists, divisiveness in American politics, and more people reporting incidents. They said anti-Semitic activity at schools and college campuses nearly doubled for the second year in a row, with UC San Diego and San Diego State among the U.S. campuses most affected.
Summer Stephan using Soros’ support as a reason to attack her opponent, Geneviéve L. Jones-Wright. Anti-Semitism will still rile the most reactionary Republicans in our county to vote against Democrats. In the age of Trump, it’s become fashionable again in some circles.
She’s hoping to drive turnout with hate and fear, indistinguishable from what the current occupant of the Oval Office used in his campaign.
This anti-Soros crap is based on Russian-fueled lies going back to the fall of the Soviet Union. Melik Kaylan got it right in an essay published in Forbes earlier this year. After peeling back the falsehoods about Soros, he concluded:
You may disagree with his political slant in the US, as I largely do, all that Moveon.org stuff. I have written opinions against him going way back to 2001 where I teased him in a Wall Street Journal op-ed for supporting the estate tax. Yet, his (Hungarian-born) sister-in-law and I became friends for a while some ten years ago after I researched the East Europe book and I even tried to help her shape her memoir. But I never met him or associated with any of his foundations.
Still, I’ve always admired their relentless efforts in the face of state harassment across the world to fight corruption, government opacity, repression of media and human rights. Those who helped the US win the Cold War with their ideas considered him a hero in the decades after, not least people like Lech Walensa and Vaclav Havel. Their judgment is good enough for me and should be for you. Agree or disagree with his particular spot on the political spectrum, he deserves to be treated with honor.
Stephan’s view of larger implications of the challenge to her position by Geneviéve Jones-Wright, namely that ‘order’ is being challenged by ‘anarchy,’ is dismissive of the possibility the quest for reform is driven by people who simply want to put ‘justice’ on an even keel with ‘criminal’ in the execution of criminal justice.
Summer Stephan sees what she sees because of the blinders she wears. Her reality does not include history; the stories of how the institutions charged with enforcing laws were/are shaped by animus.
While it is only partially true modern-day policing evolved from southern slave patrols, it is 100% true that we have a long history of dual standards based on race, class, and patriarchal standards.
The first step towards putting “justice” into criminal justice is to acknowledge that history. Stephan’s campaign strategy moves us away from correcting the mistakes of the past.
There are self-proclaimed liberals in San Diego, including Congressman Juan Vargas and City Attorney Mara Elliott who have endorsed Summer Stephan. Their silence in the face of her campaign’s fear mongering speaks volumes.
Finally, from a San Francisco Chronicle article about Soros’ involvement in electoral contests in the Bay Area:
It’s unusual to have a contested district attorney’s race to begin with, said retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell. Usually one person retains the job for term after term, and the seat opens up only when that person retires or dies.
And the people who get elected as district attorney tend to be conservative law-and-order types, not outsiders pressing for criminal justice reform, Cordell said. She attributes the sudden flare of progressive challenges to the Black Lives Matter movement, which draws attention to inequality in the justice system.
Soros is using his money and influence to fix that, Cordell said.
“He’s trying to bring in people of color and other candidates who want to change the system,” she said.
I’m fine with having a debate about what criminal justice in San Diego should look like. We’re not having that debate, perhaps because Stephan’s positions are indefensible.
UPDATE: There seem to be a number of people who don’t believe that using Soros as a symbol is anti-semitic. Or would like to advance conspiracy theories about the man. We’re NOT printing your comments. It’s our sandbox. Deal with it.
For those of you who might be confused:
“It is “indisputable that George Soros has, in recent years, been subjected to antisemitic campaigns around the world, painting him as a shadowy Jewish bogeyman,” Gidon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism” – The Times of Israel.
“You couldn’t come up with a better enemy figure today,” said Jan Orlovsky, director of the Slovak branch of the Open Society Foundations. “George Soros brings up all of the stereotypes we have lived with all our lives — about Jews, bankers and, in Slovakia, also about Hungarians.” – The New York Times
“The desire to attach Soros’s name to virtually everything that Trumpists seek to denounce of late is inextricably tied to the fact that the liberal Jewish billionaire/philanthropist has been turned into a bogeyman for anti-Semites the world over. Soros is today’s stand-in for the time-honored anti-Jewish slanders sensationalized in Europe and elsewhere in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. That’s why Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary practically turned Soros—whom he blames for “destroy[ing] the lives of millions of Europeans”—into his opposition party in that nation’s recent elections. It’s why, in Macedonia, a group called Stop Operation Soros, or SOS, emerged to try to defend that nation’s corrupt right-wing party. It’s why Poland’s ruling party leader, Jarosław Kaczyński, said he believes that Soros views cosmopolitan societies as “extremely easy to manipulate.” Right-wing idiots have been setting fire to effigies and portraits representing Soros in rallies from Warsaw to Tbilisi.” – The Nation
“Over the course of modern history, ultra-nationalistic and racist politicians have used images of Jews, particularly those who have been financially successful, as a convenient way to enlist political support. Generalized talk about the Jews was not sufficiently effective, and the anti-Semites have always needed targets with a name and a face to stir up the masses.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, “the Rothschilds” served as the leading image of the greedy cosmopolitan Jew. At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, the symbol is George Soros” – Haaretz
“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump retweeted a meme depicting Hillary Clinton, a pile of money, and a Star of David with text calling his opponent the “most corrupt candidate in history.” In the final days of the campaign, Trump released a television ad overlaying images of various Jewish financial figures, including Soros, piles of money, and narration lambasting “those who control the levers of power in Washington” and “global special interests.” As president, he has tweeted a link to a website that claims Jews control global financial institutions.
Republicans have long defended the intervention of multi-billion dollar corporations in politics, as an exercise of free speech. The GOP’s obsession with Soros is, as such, about something other than money in politics. What Republicans are quite clearly doing is cynically tapping into and amplifying conspiratorial anti-Semitism that has never left this country.” Muftah
And who could forget Trump’s closing ad campaign in 2016?
“These are standard anti-Semitic themes and storylines, using established anti-Semitic vocabulary lined up with high profile Jews as the only Americans other than Clinton who are apparently relevant to the story. As you can see by my transcription, the Jews come up to punctuate specific key phrases. Soros: “those who control the levers of power in Washington”; Yellen “global special interests”; Blankfein “put money into the pockets of handful of large corporations.”
This is an anti-Semitic ad every bit as much as the infamous Jesse Helms ‘white hands’ ad or the Willie Horton ad were anti-African-American racist ads. Which is to say, really anti-Semitic. You could even argue that it’s more so, given certain linguistic similarities with anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s. But it’s not a contest. This is an ad intended to appeal to anti-Semites and spread anti-Semitic ideas. That’s the only standard that really matters.” – Talking Points Memo
Not that you needed anybody to tell you this, but the President of the United States is a serial liar. Yesterday, one of his lies concerned San Diego:
“San Diego has asked us to go forward with their section of the wall in California and rather than not doing that and letting them lobby for us with Governor Brown we decided to do it,” Trump told reporters as his cabinet met at the White House.
The problem with this claim is nobody remembers asking.
NBC 7 reached out to the San Diego Board of Supervisors to confirm that local officials have requested the proposed border wall be built.
They denied the president’s claims and have not taken a stance on a border wall.
And from the City Council:
Let me assure @realDonaldTrump and everyone else: The City of San Diego absolutely did not. In fact, here’s the resolution we passed opposing exactly this last fall: https://t.co/1CevMjEtAk https://t.co/xGmya3b63s
— Christopher Ward (@ChrisWardD3) May 9, 2018
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