Dragons, and Kleagles, and Kludds, Oh My!

corn festivalLook! Back in the booth! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Or, maybe a salt shaker? Or, hip flask?

Whatever it is, the Orange County Republican Party had it on display at their booth at La Habra’s recent Lions Club Corn Festival.

And, whatever it is or whatever it means is still a riddle, since no one in their booth could or would offer any explanation.

What it appears to be is a perfectly ordinary, nicely done, commercially available poster showing the official portraits of all the American Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama; except that President Obama’s picture has been removed, and replaced by. . . something.

It also appears to be the same poster that the same people, the Orange County Republican Party, had in their booth at La Habra’s Citrus Fair, back in April of this year, except that at that time the display had President Obama’s picture X’d out with masking tape.

So, lacking any official explanation about how the poster evolved (always a sensitive word when dealing with Republican issues) from having President Obama’s portrait to having it X’d out to having it replaced with a Mysterious Something, an outside observer must speculate.

Could it be merely a grade school-level attempt at humor, like writing on the blackboard when the teacher isn’t watching, or drawing a moustache on a celebrity’s portrait?

This is, after all, the same group of people who are proud to have chosen a convicted felon, Scott Baugh, to be their County Chairman. Baugh was, you may recall, convicted of multiple felonies and a host of misdemeanors for violating a goodly number of California’s election laws. He was allowed to buy his way out of prison time by then-Attorney General Bill Lockyear, a Democrat, who followed the Fair Political Practices Commission recommendation. More details, if you wish.

But perhaps the public disrespect to President Obama shown by these Orange County Republicans goes deeper than mere juvenile humor, or just a sour grapes attitude over losing two Presidential elections to him.

It may, in fact, be one more surface manifestation of the dark, bigoted core that has defined Orange County since it seceded from Los Angeles County in 1889.

Residents of “The OC” are sometimes reluctant to discuss or admit it, but many of the early settlers of the area were refugees from a defeated Confederacy, and of course brought their social attitudes along with them.

This led to Orange County becoming a stronghold of the Ku Klux Klan, to the extent that by the 1920s Klan members held a majority of the seats on the Anaheim city council, and the city had become known as “Klanaheim.”

Orange County’s attitudes toward people of color were summed up in local writer Annie Cooper Burton’s 1916 paean to the invisible empire titled The Ku Klux Klan, where she wrote proudly that the Klan was a noble enterprise whose purpose she described as being “to scare into submission the unruly free negroes and the troublemaking carpetbaggers.”

orange county kkk rootsIn fact, Orange County regards its Klan history fondly enough that there are still public places named after prominent Klansmen. These include a plaque on La Habra’s own City Hall dedicated to Lucien E. Proud. The plaque lists Mr. Proud’s civic accomplishments, but carries not a word of his Klan affiliation.

Likewise, Plummer Auditorium, a local landmark located on the campus of Fullerton High School, was named for Louis E. Plummer, school superintendent and Klan member.

Also included in the list of public places honoring KKK members are Pieper Lane in Tustin, Corbit Place in Yorba Linda, Fairbairn Street in Orange, Fanning Elementary School in Brea, French Park in Huntington Beach, and Lowell Street in Santa Ana.

So, records show that Orange County was founded by unapologetic white supremacists.

And after its founding, Orange County was ruled by these white supremacists, frequently wearing Klan regalia, for several decades. The records show that the Klan pretty much ran Orange County to suit itself until the 1920s (1922 and 1924, to be specific) when District Attorney Alexander P. Nelson used various non-violent methods to break the Klan’s power.

But just because the Klan ducked out of sight doesn’t mean that the white supremacist community attitudes that supported the Klan went away. And these attitudes were not directed just at the African Americans who lived in Orange County. The Mexican American residents of Orange County were also dealt plentiful reminders of how the white supremacist leaders of the county viewed any non-whites.

Schools for non-whites, for example, were vastly inferior to the white schools. Teachers, staff, and principals were paid much less than those in white schools for doing the same work. Far less money was spent on facilities, class sizes were much larger, and the curriculum was slanted toward vocational, rather than academic subjects.

These conditions were the norm until 1945, when Gonzalo Mendez and four other families filed and won a class action suit on behalf of 5,000 Mexican American families to integrate Orange County schools.

Other manifestations of Orange County’s prevailing attitude toward non-whites were highlighted in the Citrus War of 1936. Mexican citrus workers threatened to strike unless their demands were met. These demands included a raise in pay from 27 cents per hour to 40 cents, not having to furnish their own tools, and the right to unionize.

The growers refused to negotiate, and instead used local police, the National Guard, private security men, and The Santa Ana Register (now named The Orange County Register) to break the strike.

Other less-than-subtle insults to the Mexican American communities came in the mid-to-late 1930s when local officials ordered several public murals painted over. These murals were painted by WPA artists and showed the Mexican community being just that: a community. Mexican culture was celebrated, and families were shown working, playing, and just being normal people.

This official attitude surfaced again in 2008, when current Republican Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, then a Fullerton City Council member, publicly referred to such a mural, a large, full-color painting on the Lemon Street overpass, as “crap,” and wanted it painted over.

john macmurray

So, in view of the 100+ year history of Orange County being established and ruled by unrepentant white supremacists;  and in view of the frequent, sometimes violent and bloody, efforts by these rulers to keep Ms. Burton’s “unruly negroes and troublemaking carpetbaggers” and others in line, we are forced to conclude that the Corn Festival display piece is both things.

It is a giggly, juvenile-level attempt at political commentary. And it is their giggly, juvenile-level way of reminding all their party faithful that President Barack Obama is black. And therefore not worthy of respect, either for him or the office he holds.

And as such, it is also an obvious reminder that OC’s bigoted, repressive, racially-intolerant past is still very much with some people.

And that means trouble for a lot of us.

John MacMurray

Friday, 23 August 2013

More info at:

Mendez v. Westminster: Desegregating California’s Schools

The Ku Klux Klan, by Annie Cooper Burton

Klanbusters: Alexander P. Nelson: Lola Blue Blog

Welcome to Ku Klux Kounty: OC Weekly

“We need to get rid of that crap”: Supervisor—then Fullerton City Council member Shawn Nelson—speaking about the public murals during a Council meeting.

 

Published by the LA Progressive on August 23, 2013
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About John MacMurray

John MacMurray is a retired junior high teacher from the Fullerton School District. He ran as the Democratic candidate for California's 72nd Assembly District in 2006, 2008, and the Special Election/Runoff election of 2009/2010. He is active in voter registration and candidate support in his community; and in union affairs as a member of CTA/Retired. He lives in La Habra, with Ida, his wife of 37 years.