Commentary: Quentin Kopp

Practitioners of Political Witlessness

Herbert Hoover was the first U.S. president to give his salary back to the government (after the Great Depression commenced in his first year of office in October, 1929). Now the U.S. government would like everyone to do it!

Not only are Harvard University professors and administrators searching for a new president for the 2023-24 academic year, but also the chief diversity and inclusion officer (a mighty position). A gender marker is required of all employees, but this summer a “nonbinary” option is allowed because LGBTQ civil rights are assertedly threatened. That’s not true in San Francisco, but maybe Cambridge, Massachusetts is different. (That should surprise anyone who’s resided or done business in Cambridge.) If anyone’s civil rights are at issue in Cambridge, it’s Asian-Americas applicants to Harvard who sued Harvard for discrimination against such applicants. “Asian” represents an identification which includes Indians, Koreans, Japanese, Cambodians, Laotian and Chinese – 60% of the world’s population.

Fortunately, the oral arguments last October in suits by Asian applicants to Harvard and the University of North Carolina reached the U.S. Supreme Court which allege racial discrimination in admission indicate a majority of the justices will opine that colleges’ use of race for purposes of “diversity” is unconstitutional. That’s what California voters did Nov. 5, 1996, regarding an initiative entitled “Prohibition Against Discrimination or Preferential Treatment” after the legislature rejected such concept in favor of “affirmative action.”

In 2020, California voters rejected Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s effort to repeal the California Constitution clause (Article I, Sec. 31) which governs state and local education, employment and contracting. As William McGurn noted in the Aug. 23, 2022, Wall Street Journal, “… is it too much to hope that a student could fill out a college application without worrying that his grades and hard work might all be naught if he checks the wrong racial box?”

It’s not only academia which now invokes racial boxes; it now poisons City Hall, as shown last month by the SF Elections Commission’s announced intent not to re-hire the 20-year director, John Arntz, for reasons of “racial equity,” ignoring the honest and efficient management over elections with tens of candidates for public offices, barrages of local and state ballot measures, plus hundreds of printed handbooks with “pro” and “con” arguments and receiving and tallying votes. These practitioners of political witlessness had their ears boxed by Mayor London Breed and a spate of intelligent supervisors demanding Arntz’ retention. Intellectual honesty prevailed; John Arntz remains director for four more years.

The bedraggled San Francisco Chronicle, with its circulation declining to below 55,000 readers, lost its acclaiming historian, Gary Kamiya, who quit last November after editors suppressed the first of a two-part column about North Beach’s history which included criminal conduct by mostly Italian immigrants in environs like Filbert, Stockton, Grant, Greenwich and Union streets. (In the 1930s, North Beach contained about 57,000 residents of Italian descent – 27,000 born in Italy, 30,000 in America). Kamiya published 314 pieces in Chronicle from 2013 to 2022. He quit after Chronicle editors deleted the first part of his two columns which included history of Saints Peter and Paul Church and Father Oreste Trinchiere’s good works in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Why? Because the Chronicle claimed his writing described “new entire ethnicity of hoodlums.” Kamiya, who rightfully charges the Chronicle with censoring history, now publishes in the Examiner, which is free, and I recommend it to all readers.

I conclude with two more examples of language witlessness. Eileen O’Connor, a Washington, D.C. tax lawyer, points out that the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a resolution on Jan. 4, 2021, mandating so-called “gender inclusive language.” The resolution forbids common words, to wit, “Strike ‘father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, father-in-law and mother-in-law’ and insert ‘parent, child, sibling, spouse, and parent-in-law’ … Strike ‘himself or herself’ and insert ‘themselves.’”

Republicans can adopt a rule deleting such absurdities because every Congress enacts rules under which it will function during that new session this month. Don’t, however, imitate Stanford University which last May issued orders prohibiting words from its websites and computer code and identifying replacements such as “U.S. citizen” for “American” because you might slight the rest of the Americans. You can’t “master” your course because “historically, masters enslaved people.” Don’t say “gangbusters” because that word “invokes the notion of police action against ‘gangs’ in a positive light, which may have racial undertones.” Stanford labels the foregoing as “The Elimination of Harmful Language” effort which consumed “18 months of collaboration with stakeholder groups.” Stanford tuition is about $65,000 annually for some 17,000 students who are tended by 15,750 administrative staff and 2,288 faculty members. No thanks!

“Moses was a great law giver. The way he was satisfied to keep the Ten Commandments short and to the point shows … he was not an ordinary lawyer.” Thus, sayeth an astute wag. Your scribe awaits a new Congressional session and the return of our Board of Supervisors from another one-month vacation for these $148,118 per year salaried servants of the people.

Quentin Kopp is a former San Francisco supervisor, state senator, member of the SF Ethics Commission and retired judge.

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