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A great white awakening on racism?

La Jolla march
A crowd rallies in a La Jolla park before a march in support of Black Lives Matter on June 12.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon / La Jolla Light)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, June 13, 2020. Gyms are finally open today, but the only place you’ll find me exercising is on the trails in the San Gabriel Mountains. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.

Two weeks ago, when the uprising over George Floyd’s death and police brutality against Black Americans began raging, I started off this newsletter by quickly ceding this space — normally occupied by introductory commentary from me, a white man — to a Black voice. This week, I’m happy to do the same to Erin Aubry Kaplan, a regular contributor to The Times who took to our op-ed page to note the “amazing development” that white tribalism is under assault — by white people:

“Whites are protesting — with their kids and dogs — not just in Santa Monica and Hollywood, but on the Main Streets of places known for their history of racist police practices, like Culver City and Glendale. Driving recently through El Segundo and Hawthorne, I have been amazed to come across protests in those places — small, to be sure, but lively and as unapologetic as any I’ve watched on television. And the faces in the crowds were largely white.

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“So is anti-racism finally becoming a thing? The fact that big corporations are scrambling to express their solidarity with the cause of opposing systemic racism — Lyft, Ben & Jerry’s and others — may not be entirely altruistic, but just the breadth of scrambling gives me reason to hope this isn’t a mere passing trend.

“Of course, even if this turns out to be substantive change, there is still the 45% of the country in the cult of Trump, people who will stick with the president, no matter how tribal and racially tone-deaf he remains. A far-right backlash to the protests and their growing demands for justice is all but inevitable....

“The key thing to keep in mind now is that critical masses of white people denouncing racism is a very good sign that white tribalism, the original social contract of this country, one that’s held for hundreds of years, is finally cracking. With Blacks providing the moral context, whites are calling themselves out, separating racist from non, deciding which side of the color line they want to be on. That’s a change for the good.”

Here’s one white man who’s having none of that: President Trump. Not only is he returning to the campaign trail by holding a rally that promises to be a COVID-19 superspreading event, he’s also doing it in Tulsa, Okla. — site of the 1921 razing of an entire Black neighborhood by white mobs — and on June 19, or Juneteenth. “In that one event Trump will strike the wrong tone on race relations while risking exposing some of his most loyal supporters to a potentially deadly disease,” writes Scott Martelle. “Of course he is. Because they are the exactly wrong things to do.” L.A. Times

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Should cities “defund” their police departments? The reallocation of resources away from traditional, quasi-militaristic policing as a way to rethink public safety is an idea that is gaining traction, including with the L.A. Times Editorial Board, which says decades of funding and staffing increases for the LAPD cannot be sustained into the future. Former U.S. Atty. Harry Litman concedes that the problem with policing isn’t a few “bad apples” but rather a sick system and he also warns that disbanding entire departments can have unintended consequences. Jim Newton says the post-Rodney King investigation of the LAPD provides a road map for reform.

“Gone With the Wind” cancel or keep? John Ridley, screenwriter for “12 Years a Slave,” took to the L.A. Times op-ed pages to call on the HBO Max streaming service to remove the film, which portrays slavery as benign and promulgates the “Lost Cause” myth of the antebellum South, until it can present the 1939 classic in fuller context. His piece quickly got results, and HBO Max pulled the film, a move that editorial writer Carla Hall decried: “If you watch ‘Gone With the Wind’ and don’t get that it’s a piece of the past to be left in the past, then you’ve got problems that the contextual analysis won’t solve.” There’s also the matter of canceling Hattie McDaniel, the first Black actor to win an Oscar, notes Pamela K. Johnson.

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Get used to coronavirus waivers. The Trump campaign is making registered attendees of its reckless June 19 rally in Oklahoma sign them, part of a liability waiver trend that extends all the way to Congress, which wants to protect businesses worried about reopening from coronavirus-related lawsuits. Still, the situation is not as straightforward as all companies being able to force customers into a contractual agreement on liability, writes deputy editorial page editor Jon Healey. L.A. Times

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Apologize to Mitt Romney. Those are columnist Jonah Goldberg’s words, not mine. His argument is that Romney, garnering newfound respect on the left for opposing Trump and marching with Black Lives Matter demonstrators, was always a decent human being who did what he thought was right, and therefore never deserved to be portrayed as a moneyed robber baron (and even dog abuser) in the 2012 presidential election. L.A. Times

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As always, you can share your feedback by emailing me at paul.thornton@latimes.com.


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