Recently appointed Coeur d'Alene School District trustee Brent Regan spoke up at Saturday's legislative forum on guns and Obamacare and, as a result, he's found himself in critics' crosshairs, accused of unleashing a racist comment.
Here are four items on that subject: First, Regan's comment as reported in Sunday's Press; next, an email sent to Regan from an upset school district constituent (we've withheld the person's name because we don't have permission to publish it); then, Regan's response to that email; and finally, a column Regan has written on racism. — Mike Patrick, editor
1. From the Sunday Press:
Brent Regan, a Coeur d'Alene School District board member, told the legislators and audience that gun rights are God-given, and that many gun owners take that to heart.
[Rep. Luke] Malek assured Regan he's already seen three pieces of legislation being developed to protect gun rights.
"What is a mental health issue has become a gun issue, and that's just not right," Malek said. "It's just a reaction that has nothing to do with the cause of what we were seeing (with recent mass shootings)."
Malek added, "More people are killed with hammers than they are with assault rifles in the United States, but for some reason we're going after assault rifles."
Regan, responding to Malek, said he hasn't heard a concise definition of an "assault" weapon or rifle. He said the legislature could help define what an assault weapon is to preserve rights of gun owners.
Then, Regan added, to some shocked and uncomfortable laughter and rumblings in the audience, "My wife and I were having this conversation and I said, 'They can't figure out what an assault weapon is - it's just black and it looks scary.' And she looks at me and says, 'Well, so is Obama.'"
2. From an irate school district patron:
Dear Mr. Regan;
I appreciate that you felt it necessary to attend and also participate in the Post Falls Legion Forum on gun control on Saturday , January 26th. It is your choice as a free publican to do so.
The issue I have is your lack of boundaries in a public arena and the need to "share" your family view or humor which presents a biased and racist view.
As one of your Area 1 constituents I do NOT appreciate your off- color ( NO PUN INTENDED) segue of a conversation between you and your wife and the analogy of guns and Obama as being "just black and scary".What you say in your home is private. What you choose to repeat in public is a sign of poor judgement and distasteful.
You were appointed to represent the oversight of educating our public school children. I now suspect your agenda is both a narrow minded and a racist platform You are now representing a body that is greater than yourself and have slandered all in the Zone 1 area as a racist constituency. I now wonder at your true purpose for the School board.
Once again we need to find a true education focused leader come Spring 2013 and let you be a racist gun supporter in private. Your agenda is not fitting to young minds and healthy educational goals.
3. Regan's response to that patron:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I assure you I am not a racist, as people who know me will confirm. I am sure that if we got to know each other that you would also come to that conclusion. I believe that people should be judged by their actions and then their words but absolutely never by their race. This is the opposite of racism. I also believe a person is responsible for what they say, but not what others chose to infer from those words.
Your suspicions of my narrow mindedness are unfounded as I rigorously encourage the consideration of all viewpoints in an attempt to craft a solution that is the best fit for a given situation.
Prior to making my comments at the meeting I made a clear statement that I was participating as an individual, not as a Trustee, specifically to insulate others from my comments. It is unfortunate that was not also quoted as I would not presume to speak for others unless specifically directed to do so.
As a Trustee, my primary responsibility is to ensure the education of the children in the district and to represent the entire district, not just Zone 1. http://www.idsba.org/node/63
I am dedicated to that enterprise and I invite your participation.
Thank you for your kind consideration and I hope you find my words reassuring. Bringing distress to anyone was never my intent.
P.S. I am submitting an essay on racism to the Press. If they print it I would encourage you to read it. It is my hope that you better understand my views and I hope that in the future I will better understand yours.
4. Regan's column on racism:
At its core, racism is the belief that a race of people can be ascribed a general unflattering characteristic; that race alone can define the qualities of a person. Racism has existed throughout human history. Our nation was born with the stain of slavery, the most virulent form of racism, but over the intervening years we have been making slow, steady progress in bringing the equal opportunity promise of America to all, regardless of race.
The election of Barak Obama as the first black president has defined America as no longer a “racist” country and his re-election has confirmed that fact. However, criticism of the Commander and Chief’s actions are now frequently falsely characterized as ‘racist’.
The irony is that these false claims of racism are themselves racist, and doubly so in that they denigrate both parties. If criticism of the President is based on the color of his skin and not his actions then praise can also be for the same reason. Is the President not able to take credit and blame equally for his actions or must he be shielded by his race? By crying ‘racism’ the supporters of the President are in essentially saying that because of his race the President cannot defend himself on the merits of the argument. This is obviously untrue and I find it offensive. The President’s capabilities and shortcomings are clearly not related to his race.
If critics of the President are falsely branded as ‘racist’ then their arguments are dismissed without serious consideration regardless of merit. This is a great disservice to the President, the critic, and society at large as valid criticism that may result in improvement is ignored.
Case in point, at a recent Town Hall meeting I was relaying a humorous anecdote illustrating the difficulties in defining an “Assault Weapon” and how the general description could be applied to the President, which is clearly absurd, which was my point. That comment was quoted in the Press and that quote was inferred by some to be ‘racist’. Those that know me and my family would not reach that same conclusion as I am not a racist and no one in my family holds racist views. I believe that people should be judged by their actions and then their words but absolutely never by their race. This is the opposite of racism. I also believe a person is responsible for what they say, but not what others chose to infer from those words.
It is becoming clear that President Obama’s policies are hurting far more than they help. My wife and I fear the future our children are facing with rising poverty and debt during the worst recovery EVER. 62.8% of Press readers agree that Obama’s second term will be worse than the first. Are 62.8% of Press readers also racists? No.
Obama, Pelosi and Reid are all scary, not because of the color of their skin but the content of their character. I like the fact that Obama’s race proves that, as a country, we have transcended racism. Are there still racists among us? Sadly yes, they are often the ones who infer racism where none is implied or the ones who circumnavigate the obvious to arrive at the trivial for political gain.
We cannot finally shed ourselves of racism if it continues to be used as a shield for failing policy or to short circuit honest debate. For my part, I pledge that I will continue to assume that you are not a racist. It is my hope that you will return the favor. Then together we can work to solve the difficult problems.