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Readers on Spike Lee, Ivanka Trump, Confederate statues, racism and white complicity

Spike Lee
Director Spike Lee in New York. His new film, “Da 5 Bloods,” begins streaming June 12 on Netflix.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Readers respond to our interview with Spike Lee, Bible quotes by Ivanka Trump and columns about racism, white complicity and TV coverage of protests.

Josh Rottenberg’s interview with Spike Lee [“Spike Lee’s Battleground,” June 7] was wonderful, and I can’t wait to see the film (“Da 5 Bloods”).

Something not mentioned was that the U.S. armed forces were segregated until President Harry Truman ended it in 1948. That’s hard to believe.

As I write this, I realize that 1948 was an election year and I wonder if Truman did it to get African American votes? I hope it was only because it was the right thing to do.

Jim Plannette
Los Angeles

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Tear down those monuments

Art critic Christopher Knight’s observations and advocacy [“Doing Right Thing in the South,” June 4] reached me like no other. Not the demonstrations. Nor the kneeling. Nor my constant interactions, respect for and support of people of all colors.

This column has paved a massive highway and provided a road map to facilitate understanding and change. First eliminate all the symbols of repression. Why didn’t I “get” that a harmless statue of Robert E. Lee — that wonderful gentleman farmer/leader/graduate of West Point — was such a toxic symbol to my fellow citizens? He fought to enslave human beings. He needs to be buried. Along with all the others. Yes, 1,700 to go.

Hopefully, the leadership in our country will continue down your highway. 1) Fix the healthcare system to take care of everyone — no matter what color, income or status. 2) Fix the 18th century school system and pay premiums to effective teachers — fire the rest. 3) Eliminate the psychopaths in law enforcement. Then stand back and watch everyone thrive.

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June Cowgill
Altadena

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As a native of Alexandria, Va., as an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, as a historian and author of “Managing White Supremacy: Race, Politics, and Citizenship in Jim Crow Virginia,” and as a resident of Los Angeles for the last 25 years, I am writing to thank you sincerely for your column.

I know the statue in Old Town Alexandria too well. It sits several blocks from the house where my grandfather grew up and several blocks from the all-Black library depicted on the cover of my book. I have spent many hours doing research at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond (now the Virginia Museum of History & Culture), which sits right next to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and I am all too familiar with the odious statues along Monument Avenue. Ditto for “Silent Sam” in Chapel Hill and the Lee statue in Charlottesville.

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When I finished writing “Managing White Supremacy,” I thought about writing a book on Confederate statues and memorials, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to spend the next six to eight years of my life immersed in the subject (instead, I turned to reapportionment and the Supreme Court’s “one person, one vote” decisions of the 1960s). Thank goodness, because I never would have been able to capture as eloquently as you have in a single column everything that is hateful and fundamentally dishonest about the South’s fascination and glorification of its past. May more and more of the 1,700 come down in the months and years ahead.

Many, many thanks for your powerful words.

Douglas Smith
Los Angeles

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As a Southerner who grew up revering Confederate generals such as Lee and whose ancestors fought for the Confederacy, I wish you could see a broader point of view.

You dismiss heritage as “unctuous twaddle about ancestral bravery in war.”

Heritage is powerful, and if you think taking down Confederate statues will ultimately help the problem with systemic racism in the South, you fail to see the importance of the heritage we grew up respecting. It will only harden the hearts of white Southerners.

Wouldn’t it be more constructive for liberals like you (and I’m one too) to put your energies into building statues to Rosa Parks and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and letting those of us with another point of view have our statues and yes, our sacred heritage? Tearing down our traditions will only harden hearts, not erase the past.

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The more important goal is to get rid of the racist in the White House. Helping that cause is not going to be furthered in the red Southern states by having people like you crushing what is and has been a lifetime of pride and respect to Southerners.

Beth Brickell
Sherman Oaks

The local angle

While I’m happy to see Lorraine Ali’s praise for local TV coverage of the L.A. protests [“Local TV Bests Social Media,” June 5], it would be nice if she made even passing mention of the most-watched stations serving the largest viewing audience in the city.

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That would be Spanish-language television, which has been providing excellent continuing coverage of events throughout the city and county.

Given that these protests stem from the injustices suffered by people of color, your critic’s failure to mention stations serving the Latino community is an embarrassing omission.

Tim Paine
Burbank

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Thank you for a great article. I really appreciated your perspective and insight into how media have evolved and specifically how social media can be so didactic.

And I learned something, which is always nice in a newspaper article.

Kevin M. Quinn
San Diego

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This was such a well written piece. Thank you. I’ve been really disappointed with local broadcast news that has contributed to the narrative of “war” or “chaos” when really, I see larger, very peaceful marches of unity with few instances of looting or violence. Please continue to push for coverage of the outcry rooted in the fight for justice, not the actions of few that detract and distract.

Abel Habtegeorgis
Oakland

Cable news can’t handle the truth

Television critic Robert Lloyd did a service when he described the noise in my head as I try to keep up with and understand broadcasting today [“Cable News Can’t Rise to Occasion,” June 4].

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When “speculation, opinion, posturing, repetition and even passion” are described as reporting, it creates a cacophony for many of us who are still searching for the clarity that someone like Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite could provide.

But I’m frightened by Lloyd’s notion that the capacity of news reporting is at times itself incapable of telling a complicated story.

Last week, I became an 88-year-old. I have been deceived over the decades but I have also been informed. What will the rest of you who follow my generation rely on to help you make choices?

Jack Drake
Redondo Beach

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I read Lloyd’s column and did not understand what the headline had to do with the article. I did not see an analysis of what cable news is or is not doing in covering current events. I watch CNN regularly and am generally pleased with its coverage.

Lately, though, all news coverage is a problem. There seems to be only one story: the protests and observances of George Floyd’s death. Even the novel coronavirus and its effects on the economy seem to have disappeared into the haze.

I have many other complaints about local and national news programs, but that subject is for another time. At least The Times seems able to cover more than one story.

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Gary Green
Pasadena

Same racism, different date

Mary McNamara points out that in light of racism in the U.S. continuing to rear its ugly head, we white people have not done enough to eradicate it [“Racism Seems to be a Pandemic With No Vaccine,” June 1].

She is 100% right. It is not enough to react after reading about yet another appalling injustice perpetrated on a person of color — we must be in proactive mode at all times.

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McNamara’s column should be required reading for all those who feel they shouldn’t have to do more.

Anneke Mendiola
Santa Ana

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McNamara has achieved a personal best in virtue signaling with her disgustingly smug — and undoubtedly racist — excoriation of white people, apparently all of whom are complicit in the tragic death of Floyd.

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Instead of indiscriminately firing her bazooka like a journalistic terrorist, McNamara should instead look in a mirror and see the true face of scattershot and utterly unhelpful high dudgeon.

Jeff Schultz
Los Angeles

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McNamara’s column was spot on in describing white people’s reaction to the horrible killing we all witnessed in Minnesota. As she eloquently wrote, the real luxury for white people is that the current outrage can pass because it’s not part of our everyday life.

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However, she’s absolutely correct that “we cannot divorce ourselves from injustice” just because it’s not happening to us. I’m reminded about the Holocaust, when Hitler slowly but surely stigmatized Jews and others. One group of citizens gradually lost its freedom until the ultimate tragedy unfolded. Action is sorely needed to heal the vast inequality in all forms that affects Black people across our country.

Michael B. Natelson
Newport Beach

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Floyd’s unnecessary death sparked feelings about racism and law enforcement in so many people. We took to the streets to protest. People all over the world joined us in speaking out against injustice and racism. After seeing the attacks on so many African Americans, we cannot ignore this any longer.

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It is time for the white community to lead the charge. We must walk shoulder to shoulder with our Black brothers and sisters. I suggest we sit down with elected officials, law enforcement and the media to discuss ways to right this wrong. We will need cooperation from everyone. We need to talk, organize and act. No more lip service. This incident teaches us that everyone’s life matters and that it is our responsibility to make it happen.

To change our culture, it will take a village. Let’s start now.

Marlene Bronson
Los Angeles

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McNamara is a truly great reporter/columnist. She is a valued member of society and an asset to the community and to this newspaper.

Sarane Bennett
Beverly Hills

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Today, after 26 years, I ended one of the longest relationships of my life — longer than any of my jobs and as long as my domestic partnership. I have been thinking about this for the last few months but what convinced me today was the article by McNamara shaming me for being a white hypocrite.

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I have no problem with her espousing such views if that’s what she was hired to do. But to put her condemnation of me in the Calendar section was the tipping point. I can’t imagine Robert Hilburn making a blanket statement critical of half his readership — let alone the editor approving of such a thing.

Au revoir, L.A. Times. It was nice knowing you.

Jay Musslewhite
Woodland Hills

Meet the new normal, same as the old normal

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Mary McNamara’s column [“Back to Normal? We Can Do Better,” June 5] was a heartfelt piece of brilliance.

Thank you to McNamara for stepping a little out of the normal boundary to express what I hope most of us feel.

William Winkler
Burbank

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In her column, McNamara appears very concerned that the peaceful protesters not be confused with the “relative few” protesters who were involved in the violence and looting.

She doesn’t appear at all concerned about the thousands of innocent business owners who lost their livelihoods. She never mentions them. Maybe it’s because McNamara didn’t lose her livelihood.

Robert Flaxman
Beverly Hills

An L.A. icon in quarantine

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Regarding “Sanest Madwoman in Quarantine” [June 7]: Physically in lockdown like everybody else, writer and performer Sandra Tsing Loh continues to uncover stuff we hardly notice in our own backyards.

Loh’s observations jump like an acrobat from interesting to funny, back to interesting.

Thank God truth is so elusive. And I love it that Loh’s arena has remained mostly Los Angeles and environs. It’s been good to her, and she’s been good to us.

Ken Hense
Los Angeles

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The Bard’s words ring true

Thanks to theater critic Charles McNulty for elucidating the observations of Shakespeare on our current political events [“Ivanka Trump’s Source Material,” June 2]. I felt like I was reading an essay in a second-year sociology class, and that’s a good feeling. The Times is where one goes to be informed of current events, and I would gladly digest more educational posts regarding current events as well.

However I must contest the assertion that “it’s easy to imagine Ivanka Trump identifying with Portia.”

I doubt that anyone in the Trump household has any feelings at all for a character from classic theater.

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Chuck Mason
Los Angeles

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While admiring completely McNulty’s column — both thoughtful and challenging — I question his assumption that the president cannot imagine being oppressed. President Trump is motivated by fear — witness his being in a bunker on Friday. He sees himself as a victim, possibly being oppressed — even today — by former President Obama.

McNulty made me return to “The Merchant of Venice,” and I found some very appropriate quotations for Trump’s behavior: “The Devil can cite scripture for his purpose,” being one.

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Carol Mitchell
Marina del Rey

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McNulty’s intelligent, reasoned, educated essay in response to the first daughter’s biblical remark was wonderful to read. I cannot imagine Ivanka Trump dashing out to find a copy of the “Merchant of Venice,” but should she come across this piece of mild rebuke in her daily reading, I hope she garners something useful from it.

And this thought: Children do not always stand aside when a parent does something uncivil, and I wonder how long she and her siblings will wish their association with their father to continue. Never having much money and little power, submerging my soul for such is beyond my ken.

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McNulty is a gift; one I discovered many years ago on the other coast.

Carleton Cronin
West Hollywood

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Let’s hope the theaters open quickly so McNulty can stop his Shakespeare-laced political opinions and their outrage against Trump. This time, McNulty slams Ivanka Trump, whom he does not know, for quoting Kings 20:5.

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Not surprising, McNulty had no problem when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) publicly said multiple times: “To minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us” — and that this was her “favorite Bible verse.” However, Pelosi’s verse is not in the Bible — but no problem for the morally superior McNulty and the ever-enlightened Pelosi.

Since McNulty’s long-winded hit piece references “The Merchant of Venice,” the character Gratiano in that great play has a line that best describes McNulty: “You speak an infinite deal of nothing.”

Kevin Dretzka
Los Angeles

Editors note: After a flurry of stories looking for the source of Pelosi’s quote, a Slate reader pointed out that Pelosi may have gotten the quote from the Good News Translation of Proverbs 14:31. “The Good News Translation, a ‘common language’ Bible first published in the 1970s, translates the verse this way: ‘If you oppress poor people, you insult the God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship.’ Pelosi reverses the phrases and expands the subject from the poor specifically to all of ‘God’s creation.’ But otherwise it is a fairly faithful translation.”

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The president holding the Bible high at the entrance of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., reminds me of a scene in a performance I saw of Goethe’s “Faust I” in Germany in 1947. There, Mephistopheles carried around and showed off a Bible to impress and seduce Gretchen.

Brilliant. Thank you, Charles McNulty.

Helga Kasimoff
Los Angeles

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So it’s true that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Ivanka Trump quoting a sacred prayer from the Bible didn’t make her feigned compassion any more heartfelt than her father’s false love of a Bible he picked up as a prop for his photo op to make him look religious.

The disgusting way he commanded federal troops to attack peaceful protesters in Washington’s Lafayette Park with tear gas and roughly beat them with their shields to clear his way for using the church as a backdrop nauseated true religious people to the core. Instead of looking strong as he hoped, it merely exposed his lack of humanity for all to see.

Marcy Bregman
Agoura Hills


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