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Profile: Robert Graham
Robert Graham was a participant or observer in the following events:
The photo Mayor Grose sent out to, among others, an African-American community member. [Source: Keyanus Price]The mayor of Los Alamitos, a small city in Orange County, California, causes an uproar when he sends a “joke” e-mail that shows the White House with a watermelon patch taking the place of the usual White House garden. The e-mail is entitled “No Easter Egg hunt this year.” Among the recipients are the members of the City Council, and black businesswoman and community volunteer Keyanus Price. Price explains, “I think he’s saying that since there’s a black president, there will be no need to hunt for eggs since they’re growing watermelons in the front yard this year.” Price replies to the e-mail, sent by Mayor Dean Grose, with the response: “Hey, that’s not nice at all. Not all black people like watermelon… you should know better than that.” Grose’s initial reply fails to respond to the racial content, and reads: “The way things are today, you gotta laugh every now and then. I wanna see the coloring contests.” Price says Grose’s response upset her even more than the original e-mail. “As soon as I saw his response; that put me over the top because it was no big deal to him,” she says. “I was horrified when I read that e-mail. What I’m concerned about is how can this person send an e-mail out like this and think it is OK?” When Orange County residents and city leaders begin protesting the racially insensitive e-mail, Grose issues an apology to Price, her boss, and the City Council; it reads in part: “I am deeply embarrassed in receiving your e-mail, and for any harm or hurt that it may have caused. It was poor judgment on my part and was never intended to be offensive to Ms. Price, your company or anyone in the African-American community.… I in no way was representing the City of Los Alamitos, or my role as a council member in sending this out and it went via my private business e-mail. That doesn’t justify the fact that it was sent, however, we gratefully appreciate the contributions that your company makes to our community and I wish to publically apologize to anyone within the firm or organization that may have been offended. I am truly sorry.” Some residents are not mollified. “It appalls me how much racial insensitivity continues in this day and age,” says Aliso Viejo resident Brian Alpers. “Even forwarding e-mails like that continue to perpetuate stereotypes and yes, even racial hatred.” 74-year old Marjorie McDowall says: “It reminds me of my childhood and all the filthy jokes there were about blacks. It’s really offensive. I thought we were beyond that. I really did.” Robert Graham adds: “To me, it’s not so much the e-mail that was sent but the comment that was sent afterward that supports it. For me, as a resident and he being my mayor, it reflects on the rest of our community. He’s our representative not only to the county, but the state as well.” An unidentified person smashes a watermelon in front of Grose’s office, apparently either in protest or retaliation for the e-mail. Two days after sending the e-mail, Grose announces that he will resign as mayor of Los Alamitos. “The attention brought to this matter has sadly created an image of me which is most unfortunate,” he writes. “I recognize that I’ve made a mistake and have taken steps to make sure this is never repeated.” [Orange County Register, 2/24/2009; Orange County Register, 2/24/2009; Orange County Register, 2/26/2009; Orange County Register, 2/26/2009]
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