Stuff you just can’t ignore

I get asked why I am so focused on race. They say: Why don’t you let things go because there has been so much racial progress? (Arguably yes, since people of color can no longer be owned like chattel.) I even get called a racist and told I fan the flames of hatred by writing about race. And then I learn about a white kid (his race is relevant to this story) who hurled the N-word at a group of  African-American students. Or someone confuses me with another African-American columnist, because we all …. well you know. And then I come across stories like this one on about a fired football coach in Camden, N.J. who  says he was asked to put more white players on the field. Um, you can’t ignore this stuff. And I won’t.



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Oops, nevermind

Let this email exchange with a reader speak for itself. It actually happened today:

Reader: “A quick Perusal all of your daily editorials shows you seem to be fixated on finding problems with our current president, Trump. With all the troubles we have here in Stockton and in California it would seem something could take your mind off President Trump but I have yet to see it. Check your editorial trail and see how many of your columns are devoted to your disappointment in our president.. I know it’s a cliché but it’s beginning to look like you would rather Trump and the nation fail than both succeed.”

My response: “I will tell you the same thing I have told others. We carry a liberal/moderate and conservative columnist Mon-Fri. They pick their topics, we do not.”

Reader: “It was your column that I was speaking about.”

My Response: “If you are referring to my Starbucks editorial that was not about President Trump. If you interpreted it that way, then that is your interpretation.”

Reader: “My error it was one of your guest columnists. Sorry.”

My Response: “I presume you mistook Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post for me? Apology accepted.”

(Editor’s note: Published in the Friday April 20 Record was a column by Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post. A photo of the columnist is published with the column. Robinson is African-American.)

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Inside the newsroom

It was about 10 p.m. Friday when reporter Almendra Carpizo texted me a Stockton Police Department announcement that an arrest had been made in the murder of Michael Donaghy, executive director of the Stockton/San Joaquin Emergency Food Bank.
Donaghy had been found slain about a week earlier at a rental home he owned in the 9000 block of Valley Oak Drive, Stockton.


Mike Donaghy, executive director of the Stockton/San Joaquin Emergency Food Bank. COURTESY PHOTO

Family members said he had returned home from work and had gone out to run errands, including going to talk to a tenant about rent and picking up dinner before returning home.
There was one phrase in the police statement that was most chilling: “Investigators believe this was not a random act.”

The news broke too late for publication in the print edition of Saturday’s Record, so we turned to A short story can be found here .

There will be additional coverage in the Sunday Record and online.

But this most recent news happened late on the eve of services for Donaghy. Those are scheduled for 4 p.m. today (Sat. Jan 13) at Quail Lakes Baptist Church, Stockton. The family will hold a press conference before the services.

Surely, this news will make what was already to be an emotional day, even more heartrending for family and friends.


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Looking for help with Help-Portrait

Since 2009, Record Photographer Clifford Oto has organized an annual help-portrait event in Stockton to take portraits of those in need.

Diana Aguilar and her sons Christian 3,, left, and Jaden, 5, pose a picture at the Help-Portrait Event at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless. STOCKTON SHELTER FOR THE HOMELESS/COURTESY 2016

People who cannot afford to have this done themselves, including some who have never had a formal portrait taken. This year, he is looking for volunteers to help for a few hours on Sat. Dec.2. He needs photogs, helpers, hair and makeup people and so on.

Siblings Janiece, Janee, Brian Adams sit for a portrait at the Help-Portrait event at the Stockton Shelter for the Homeless in Stockton. BEN WONG/COURTESY 2011

This is a great cause.

Record Photographer Clifford Oto works with a family during a Help-Portrait session. CLIFFORD OTO/RECORD FILE 2011

If you would like to volunteer or help in some manner, contact Clifford at or 209-546-8263.

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Reader feedback on a seemingly innocuous item

I found this voicemail quite interesting.

The caller was referring to a tidbits column, titled Random Thoughts, that was published Wednesday in the Sports section of The Record and on The column contains tidbits about various sports-related items.

You can read the full column by clicking here.

The caller didn’t like it.

He stated (in no particular order):

  1. That he was tired of me writing about race.

  2. That he was qualified to say the above because his wife is black and she too is tired of me writing about race.

  3. That I am stoking the fires of racial hatred and separatism by writing about race.

  4. That I was not qualified to write about sports.

  5. That if he knew who owned The Record he would have me fired.

I had someone else review that column and he could find no direct reference to race in it.

My guess is this is what the caller was referring to:

It’s hard to ignore the $250,000 cost of Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Indianapolis for last Sunday’s 49ers-Colts game. It’s one thing to stay for the game, no issue with that as the Colts honored Peyton Manning, a two-time Super Bowl champion and first-ballot lock for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. What makes it difficult is that Pence walked out before the game began in protest of the NFL players protest during the national anthem. It’s not as if it was unexpected that the players would do that.

I viewed that note as being about something that happened at a football game.

Any interpretation of it as being about race is through your own filter.

It goes to an ongoing discussion I have been having with a number of people about how others are emboldened to step out of the shadows with their putridity.

I listened to the entire voicemail, in part to see if the caller would leave a name and callback number. Of course, he did not. People like that never do.

But here’s how I would respond to that caller (also in no particular order):

  1. In this case, I was not writing about race, I was writing about a waste of taxpayers money at a football game. But I am going to continue writing about race.

  2. My wife is black, too.

  3. Racial hatred does not come from me writing about racial issues.

  4. I am a journalist with 36 years of experience at professional newspapers. I can write about pretty much any topic with authority.

  5. Gatehouse Media is the corporate operator of The Record.

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Behind every photo, there is a story

Here’s the story behind my favorite Clifford Oto photo.

Graduation at University of the Pacific is Saturday. And often at this time of the year, that event causes me to think back to 2011 when I sat in the stands at Spanos Center to watch my eldest daughter, Devon shown in the above photo, graduate.

I saw Clifford getting photos of the graduation ceremony and later I saw Devon walk in.

Smiles all around for me and my family.

The next day Devon’s photo was in The Sunday Record.

I was surprised to see it.

Devon told me that Clifford approached her during the event and that their conversation went something like this:

“Hi, I’m Clifford Oto with The Record. I got your photo. Could I have your name, please?”

“Uh,” she said, aware of any conflicts of interest. “Devon. D-e-v-o-n”

Clifford scribbled it down. “And the last name?”

“Blount,” she said.

“How do you spell that?” he asked.

“B-l-o-u-n-t,” she said.

His head down, looking at his notepad, Clifford dutifully wrote that down too. Looked at it and then stopped.

“Uh, are you Don’s kid?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Ok, thanks. And congratulations,” he said before heading off.

That photo was published in The Sunday Record.

It’s a great photo and will probably always be my favorite Clifford Oto photo.

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As the city turns

Just yesterday, we saw drama play out once again nationally and also close to home. I think most are familiar with this by now of how Attorney General Jeff Sessions responded to information that he had met with a Russian official, when he said he had not.

Where I come from, that’s called a lie.

It seems that every day there is some news, and not good news, generated by this administration. A bit more than a month in office and it seems like it’s been years.

If chaos is what President Trump and his advisers thrive on, they have certainly created it.

Locally, things buzzed when an arrest warrant was issued for former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva. Police confiscated a number of items from his home but the mayor was nowhere to be found as was out of the country.

Unfortunately, Silva’s story seems to continue turning down dark paths. From a football recruiting scandal at Franklin High School, to the charter revocation of the Stockton Boys and Girls Club to charges of playing strip poker with naked teenagers, providing alcohol to minors and illegally recording the activities.

The latest charges  include misappropriation of public funds, embezzlement, money laundering and grand theft.

Remember, innocent until proven guilty.

Hopefully, this chapter in Stockton’s history will close in some way sooner rather than later.


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Rebuttal is part of free speech

In this new era when hate speech has approval to be expressed publicly, a Sacramento Brewery owner discovered that free expression comes with a price. According to The Sacramento Bee, three co-owners of Red Rabbit Restaurant gave up their minority ownership in Twelve Rounds Brewing after brewery founder, Dan Murphy, on Facebook railed against the Women’s March.

Murphy  wrote: “I am disgusted at all of the people and politicians that supported this anti-Trump event. … I am especially disgusted with the politicians who supported this divisive event. Time to vote all these pieces of garbage out of office.”

We all have free speech rights. Unlike in some other countries we cannot be jailed for ranting against the government (unless of course we threaten someone) or for expressing a point of view. This is why we have the Tea Party, the KKK and Black Lives Matter for example. However, we need to be aware that what we say comes with consequences. If we publicly rant against say a Women’s March, we need to understand that people do not have to say “Ok” and do nothing; that they are free to rant against our view as well. That could mean verbal rebuttal or taking their business elsewhere. If the views expressed result in strong rebuke then one needs to realize that perhaps those views are not for everyone. Perhaps those views are better kept to ourselves.

As the saying goes: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.


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Racist ignorance doesn’t disappoint

I listened, I laughed and then I had a conversation about hate. I ignore most anonymous voicemails because in those cases cowards are the ones who hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

And a voicemail left at 2:40 a.m. without a name or callback number qualifies as anonymous.

And this caller did not disappoint in spewing hate-filled ignorance.

The only reason I listened was because she had called about a column I had written about the Presidential election.

I did not listen to all of that voicemail, either.

And I probably should not have listened fully to this racist rant.

Yet, she (I am pretty sure it was a woman) gave me a belly laugh when she said “IF the KKK were alive and well, you’d be part of the reason.”

Oh, and she did go on to say how Donald Trump was going to do great things for the country.

My strategy for handling people like her follows this bible verse: Proverbs chapter 26, verse 4. “Answer not a fool according to his folly lest you be like him.”

Or in this case, her. And this is just one example of responses I receive.

No doubt bigots do exist. And that’s a reason why I write about racial and social inequities.

Agitate, agitate, agitate.


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A few thoughts on the national election

Never before have election results left me this uneasy. In Donald Trump we have a president who represents so many things that are the antithesis of what we would teach anyone to be.

He has publicly shown or made statement that are homophobic, misogynistic, racist and anti-immigrant.

Just as frightening is that he appears to be saying things in public that many apparently are saying in private. The polls showed Trump trailing Democrat Hillary Clinton, yet Trump swept the swing states. The only thing that leaves one to consider is that voters were not being honest with pollsters.

It reminded me of local Republican candidates Ken Vogel, Steve Lopez and Alan Nakanishi, In an interview with The Record Editorial Board, Vogel only after being pressed said he would reluctantly support “the Republican nominee.” Both Lopez and Nakanishi refused to say who they would vote for, despite seeking positions to serve the public.

Obviously they did not want to be too closely connected to someone who behaved as Trump did. If elected, would you want to know that your representative thought less of you because of your ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation?

They of course did not want you to know because they would cost them votes. And obviously many in our community, locally and nationally did not want us to know because of how that would reflect on them, if Trump lost.

Now that he has been declared the winner, many have come out of their closet, crowing about how America is going to change its path back to the good old days.

The way I recall that period, segregation was law in southern states, the glass ceiling for women was about five feet high and immigrants were granted third tier status.

Something is not right when you have kids in tears and classroom discussions to try to calm students down because of fear of the President-elect

I’ll have more on this in my column coming Sunday.

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