The Right Coast

July 08, 2004
NAACP Demands Richard Riordan's Resignation
By Gail Heriot

When I was growing up, I had a neighbor named Mr. Loraw who loved to tease. He would insult the neighborhood children mercilessly (especially his own son and daughters), calling us "double ugly" and worse. We all loved him for it.

Times have gotten tough for the Mr. Loraws of the world. Several days ago, former L.A. mayor, now California Education Secretary Richard Riordan was promoting summer reading with children at a Santa Barbara public library. A six-year-old girl name Isis asked if he knew that her name meant "Egyptian goddess."

Riordan teasingly guessed instead, "It means stupid, dirty girl."

Little Isis stuck to her guns and said again, "It means 'Egyptian goddess.'" Mr. Loraw would have liked her for that. Riordan did too. "Hey, that's nifty," he said.

Isis' mom, evidently a sensible woman, seemed relatively undisturbed by the ribbing her daughter took, saying that Isis "didn't take it personally" and "I'm not going to sue for the therapy bills." In any event, some of those present didn't like it, and Riordan has now apologized repeatedly.

For a while it nevertheless looked like all hell would break loose. The head of the NAACP in California asked for Riordan's resignation. Democratic Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally scheduled a protest by civil rights organizations. He called Riordan's statement "outrageous and irresponsible" and rhetorically asked whether Riordan would have "done that to a white girl."

But it turns out the little Isis is white--a little blonde, white girl. The civil rights protest has been called off. Dymally issued a statement saying, "Too err is human, to forgive is divine." As Gilda Radner would have put it, "Never mind ...."

On a trip back home last year, I saw Mr. Loraw. He's still at it, except now he has grandchildren and even a great grandchild. I'll bet they love him. I still do.