Friday, April 06, 2007

Does anyone really think that Mary Pohlmann is a racist?

Link to story in the DE.

Steven Haynes is walking an interesting path on this letter from the anti smoking crowd. First, he is a long time city council person, who's main issue is the protection of the Erma Hayes Center. I'm not sure we can give him credit for anything else in 8 years on the council, beyond being a calm, pro-business, pro-people candidate (at least, I think he gets his votes right very often). The Erma Hayes Center is a black entitlement hot spot, that provides daycare and other programs in and for the North East part of Carbondale.

The letter is a pretty standard, over the top, letter to influence a uncooperative politician. If this was a class or cover letter for getting a job, the anti smoking folks would be given extra credit for personalizing their message for each person. I don't know if they sent this to our other black city council member, she was probably already on board.

Can I understand why Steven was a little upset? Sure. Do I understand why he went into a funk about it? I think I would have called Mary personally and fired her up (or more likely these days, written her up in my blog :)). But, I'm kind of direct.

The worst part about being black in todays society is surely the uncertainty about where you stand with people. Do they like me? Do they hate me? That is what everyone feels. If you are black, it's do they hate me because of my skin color. That is a big burden to carry around.

But, I don't understand how you can function as a city council person if you aren't willing to deal with this confusion directly and honestly. I realize that it is a lot to ask.

In the end, do I think that Mary Pohlmann is a racist? Absolutely not. Did she go close to the line in this letter and maybe all over the line? Yes, she did. Did Steven Haynes handle this well, I don't think he did. Mary's intended to do the right thing, Steven should have given her the benefit of the doubt. She is a near retirement age, wife of professor, super liberal after all.

I like the quote in the Clarence Page article I blogged about,
As one immigrant Jamaican friend once told me, "I'm too busy working two jobs to worry about the white man's racism."
One of the pleasures of being a white man, is you don't wonder if you are being discriminated against. When things go your way, you just work harder. I hope in my lifetime that everyone in the USA feels that way. But for now, I think we can agree that this has been blow out of proportion and is headed toward a yellow journalism treatment by the DE (which is my domain in this town).

Your comments are welcome.


Jonathan said...


Well, I finally disagree with you! I thought Haynes handled it like any person should: Why bring up something irrelevant to the issue at hand (i.e., race)? He didn't play Al Sharpton based on what I read. It was a simple statement that the only way to get beyond race is to get beyond it -- especially when it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

As for "hate," I think this is a case of liberals trying to get a man to "act black" politically (whatever that means when it comes to smoking). Haynes told them to stick it. Good for him.

Likewise, when Tiger Woods first became a star, the media tried to paint him as a role model for African Americans. He steadfastly refused and said, "No, I want to be a role model for all young people aspiring to golf." In other words, race had nothing to do with golf in this day and age. (And, as we all know, he defined himself as -- I forget the cute term -- multiracial).

It is these little acts of individualism that might just save us from being washed up in group stereotypes.

They used to call that common sense liberalism.

Peter in Carbondale said...

There is one detail that gets in my way of agreeing with you completely. The letter was sent on November 15th. That was almost 5 months ago! Does he never have to vote on this important issue? If he got the letter a week ago, I would have to agree with you.

Is there never a time where he is obligated to reengage on this issue? You get one letter that is near the line and that person is dirty forever? What happens if she is elected to the city council? Will he never speak to her again?

I think it is great that he gave her a shot back, no problems there, but does this slight deserve more? Is Mary, Steven's enemy for life now?

If Steven didn't put himself forward as a leader of the black community in Carbondale, I would ask for nothing from him. But, since he is a leader, he should put himself out there and go do something.

Kyle Raccio said...

As you know, I support the smoking ban. I would have a lot more respect for Haynes had he voted against the original ban rather than escape the issue.

I think he did it out of fear he wouldn't get enough support in the primary.

Haynes will not be on my list of choices for April 17th. I don't necessarily have to always agree with a candidate to vote for them, but I have to at least know where they stand.

Peter in Carbondale said...

Hi Kyle -

Good comments, thanks for writing in.

I have changed my mind about Steven's not voting on the smoking ban last year, based on this letter. I think that he had every right not to vote and BS on why he didn't vote. If I had gotten that letter a few days before the vote, I might well have been shaken up.

I don't think it is as good an excuse now that it is 5 months later, but he is dealing with the issue a little. The high road would have been calling Mary and chewing her a new one, but so be it.

It is interesting, maybe you have Steven and Mary in the wrong spots on your voting list?

Anonymous said...

The fact of the matter is that Haynes knows he's going to win no matter what-- he kicked ass in the primary w/o campaigning, and he'll come out on top of the general election, for sure. He has nothing to fear from a smoke-free backlash, which isn't even likely to hurt Lance Jack, except indirectly: Pohlmann will win ONLY because of smoke-free.

I think the letter mostly signifies something that is more widely true, which is that the smoke-free people will do and say just about anything to further their agenda. (These people make Jeremy Bentham look like a big ol' softy.) They also steadfastly refuse to believe that another side to the issue exists. My personal rule of thumb is to be very wary of anyone who refuses to acknolwedge a counter-position and who will accomplish their goal by any means necessarry. To qoute a local, "befriend a man who will settle for less/but beware the poor creature who'll kill for the best."

Anonymous said...

I guess you forgot that Haynes rationalized his abstention from the previous vote in the fall of 2006 by saying that he had a conflict of interest in the matter since he managed Kroger, where cigarettes were sold?

So, it doesn't matter to you to know that Haynes lied about why he abstained from voting, and only now brought up the 'real' reason for abstaining?

Gutlessness, pure gutlessness.

Peter in Carbondale said...

I think he is OK lying back after getting the letter. I don't think he is OK lying 5 months later.

Do we cut him any slack for getting a letter he feels as racist and I guess threatening? I think we do, but maybe you disagree?