In 1965, at the Fall California State Republican Convention in Los Angeles I was chosen by GOP mucky-mucks to give a speech attacking a blatantly racist referendum sponsored by California real estate interests to set aside the Rumford Fair Housing Act. It made it illegal to discriminate against what we call people “of color” today.
I was 24.
I gave the perfect “look at me, I’m a volunteer U.S. Marine veteran, a patriot, yet under this real estate proposal, I can’t buy a house because the seller or his agent don’t like Mexican Americans.”
Same for Blacks, Filipinos, Chinese, Jews or Japanese, etc.
As I spoke, I was booed. When I finished I was greeted by a dozen white women screaming epithets like “communist” to me. One “fifysomething” lady spit on me as I stepped off the dais.
Former San Francisco County Republican Chairman, Putnam Livermore, took me to his suite where the people who chose me to give that speech apologized profusely. One, a woman, cried. I was furious.
That evening, the famous campaign management firm — Spencer-Roberts, put on a huge reception for Ronald Reagan in the ballroom. He would announce for California Governor three months later.
Much to my chagrin, many of the people who booed me were in the reception line excitedly meeting Ronald Reagan, Republican Governor and President-to-be. My Republican governor and President-to-be.
The referendum passed. The Courts threw the discriminatory real estate proposition out, “Fair Housing” stands today.
Five years later that horrible episode came alive. I was the not-quite-thirty bi-lingual Public Relations Director at the pioneer Caliente horse racing track in Tijuana, Mexico, ten-minutes from the U.S. My boss was John S. Alessio, a dynamic California Democratic moneyman who financed campaigns with bushels of cash. Besides being partners with California GOP financier C. Arnholt Smith, Alessio owned the Hotel Del Coronado, the private Kona Kai Club, the exclusive Mr. A’s restaurant and myriad other profitable businesses.
He called me to his office. When I walked in, he asked me if I remembered being spit on by a woman at a state Republican convention five years before.
He shocked me with that question. How did he, King Democrat, know that?
“The other night,” he said, “you had dinner at the restaurant (Mr. A’s), I saw you, remember, we talked?”
“Well, after you left, a big shot from Los Angeles having dinner called me over and asked me how I knew you. He had seen us talk. I told him that you were my PR man.”
“He then went on to tell me about that speech you gave that afternoon and how you were mistreated by what he called a ‘99%’ white audience.”
“The guy is a heavy hitter in LA. His law firm has a hundred lawyers. He told me if you ever get in trouble and need really good lawyers to call him. He told me that he had never seen a Mexican challenge the establishment like you did that day. You obviously impressed him.”
John S. Alessio then said as he handed me an envelope “I’m proud of you.” Later I looked in the envelope, it contained 10 one hundred dollar bills.
The following year he was convicted of tax evasion and imprisoned for three years. His convictions were for things he did before I joined the company.
Today, I look at New Mexico with 8 Mexican American governors including the current one. I look at Arizona and see that a Chinese American woman – a Republican, Kimberley Yee, former state legislator and currently State Treasurer is running for Arizona Governor to replace termed out Governor Doug Ducey.
150 years ago, 17 Chinese were murdered or lynched in Los Angeles in one day. Three hundred were slaughtered by Mexican revolutionaries in 1911 because they were “taking jobs away” from Mexicans.
Fortunately, much has changed since Chinese were mass murdered in LA as were Mexicans in Texas in 1916-1998 and 2019 in mass shootings. The white woman who spat on a young Mexican “rabble rouser” in Los Angeles at the State Republican convention is long gone. No one “spits” on me these days.
When I wear a Marine cap or Marine pin on my jacket, many people thank me for my Sixties’ service. No one ever did that then.
Despite what happened on January 6 in D.C. I am optimistic. To paraphrase Nobel Laureate William Faulkener, intelligent Americans will not only endure, they will prevail.