Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Critics are making big deal over nothing
Racism is a serious problem. It has plagued humanity throughout our history in many different cultures. America has had its own struggle with racism, and while there are still those who cling to the mistakes and wrong opinions of the past, our nation has made great strides in the effort to put this divisive issue behind us.
On May 21, a statement was made by City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz that has raised allegations of racism from some members of the community. During that meeting, the votes from the Victoria City Council election were canvassed, and election winners were sworn in. As part of the process, former mayor Will Armstrong needed to sign some paperwork to accept the election results. The documents are written in both English and Spanish, and Gwosdz told Armstrong, "Just be sure to sign in Spanish."
According to Gwosdz, the comment was meant "to add a moment of levity to an overly stressful meeting." But others in the community did not see it as such.
Since this comment was made, some members of the community have declared it as racist. Some have demanded an apology from the city attorney while others are going as far as to call for his resignation or termination.
We think this situation has been blown out of proportion. Accusing someone of racism is a serious allegation that implies the statement had a malicious intent to hurt or offend others. We can see no evidence of that here. Yes, Gwosdz's comment was careless, even tactless, but it was not an outright racial insult, as some believe.
Interestingly, some of those in the community who are the most vocal in accusing Gwosdz of racism were also among those who took part in the incomprehensible debate against following the rules outlined in the state election code when Armstrong chose to withdraw from the mayoral runoff election. Now, the continued focus on this one statement is drawing attention away from the more important issue of possible open meetings violations and the denial of Freedom of Information requests by certain members of the City Council. We wonder if the residents prolonging this racism debate are doing so out of genuine concern or as a way to distract from the serious and very real concerns about possible illegal activity on the part of our elected representatives.
Make no mistake, racism is a serious issue, and when a clearly racist statement or action is made, it should be addressed. But Gwosdz's statement, while careless, was clearly not deserving of the uproar that has followed it.
We encourage residents to set aside this overblown, overemotional debate and focus on the truly disturbing controversy surrounding our City Council. The possibility of elected officials breaking the law is much more serious and urgent and needs to be addressed. An ill-conceived attempt at humor should not distract from that.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.