Lisa Davis's response to Chris Farrell
re racism accusations, 3-5-06
On 1-26-06 Pacifica National Board member Lisa Davis accused fellow PNB member Patty Heffley of making a racist remark after a meeting of WBAI's Local Station Board (documented here). Examination of the recording, however, shows otherwise, as Chris Farrell reports here in his letter to the Pacifica National Board.
Lisa Davis wrote the following letter in response to Chris Farrell's.
From: Lisa Davis
Normally I am not one to spend lots of time engaging in back and forth and tit for tat on e-mails. But the deliberate mischaracterization below of what happened and the mocking of racism compels me to address the malicious untruths that are circulating.
First of all, let me just say that most of the people who have accused me of distorting and of dramatizing this issue for political purposes are people I don’t know and who were not in the room when Patty made the statements. Many have never even been to a WBAI LSB meeting. And most who have signed onto the letter below deriding me for coming forward about this have never even talked to me. Some have only met me for 5 minutes and didn't even feel the issue was important enough to warrant asking me any additional questions about what happened before rendering an opinion. That really says a lot.
This is one of the reasons as to why racism remains so prevalent. Because it is an issue that has always been mocked and dismissed. People feel that when it comes to issues of racism with Black people that they don't even have to witness it to comment on it, or even talk with the person before lambasting them. And Black people and other people of color are derided and lambasted everytime they speak out against racism.
My responses to some of the flagrant mischaracterizations in Chris Farrell's letter [in blockquotes] are in red [actually they are not in red here]:
From: Chris Farrell
My Response: This was not an exchange between two delegates! Mr. Farrell is trying to make it sound as if we were having a conversation. We were not! Patty Heffley and I have never had a conversation with each other in my whole year of being on the Board. We have never even exchanged so much as an hello between each other before she hurled her vicious comments. I wasn't talking to her. The meeting was over. I was standing across the table speaking with someone else about how I was happy to be elected when Heffley remarked that's cause she gets to eat free food, free airplane rides and hotels. The part that Mr. Farrell reports as unintelligible is the part about free food. I clearly heard her say this and so did others in the room.
What is also revealing is what Mr. Farrell doesn't say that I said. When Patty made those comments, I asked her loudly and clearly "Are you saying that how dare I have the same privilege as you? Is that what you're saying?" I looked at her and asked her that twice. And she just looked at me. But amazingly somehow Mr. Farrell doesn't mention that part of it.
Also, I don't recall ever meeting Mr. Farrell prior to the last 2/15 WBAI LSB meeting in New York. And he only spoke two minutes to me to ask me if I agreed with some of the names that people were called that night. And I told him I don't agree with anybody calling anyone any names. Needless to say it doesn't serve Mr Farrell's purpose to bring that part up.
Davis: I can't wait to go to the National Board, I am so thrilled. I am so thrilled.
My Response: As far as the last statement goes, I don't know who she said this to or what the reference was because she wasn't talking to me! We were not enaged in conversation! I wasn't even standing near her.
The difference between Davis’ report and Heffley's remarks may seem slight, but when considered in the context of the exchange, it is telling. Heffley is not commenting on Davis' character but drawing a distinction between how a naive member might imagine service on the board, focusing on some of the perquisites, and the disappointing reality of learning that the Foundation has serious problems and has been abused by some of those in whom it placed its trust.
My Response: I resent Farrell's condescending and patronizing tone here as he is insinuating that I am some naïve person that was glad to be elected because of the perks! He is only spewing more of the same racist rhetoric that Patty spewed. I have never had a 5 minute conversation with this man and yet he is insinuating that I am naïve! This is extremely offensive. Futhermore I have never ever said that I was on the Board because I wanted the perks. At that LSB meeting when I was elected to the PNB I said that I was running because of my commitment to helping ensure that disenfranchised communnities have access to the media. My statement for my decision to run was recorded, and I can't imagine it not being on the recording device that Farrell has. For him and Patty to discard my stated reason for wanting to be on the PNB and to say that I was running for the freebies is the height of arrogance.
Moreover, Mr. Farrell's above statement is a fantastic desperate stretch. And it completely contradicts the first reason Patty gave for making her statement. In her first e-mail she said she was saying this because I didn't do any work on the Committee of Inclusion. And now Farrell is claiming that she was trying to prevent me from becoming disillusioned. I frankly am baffled as to how anyone can even jokingly try to assert that she meant either of these two sentiments by her free food, free airplane rides, and hotels comment. Ironically, if she would have said that statement about the COI, we wouldn't be going through this right now. Yes, it would have stung me, but we had various obstacles on the COI last year, including major health problems by the committee chair, Ray Laforest, that made it hard for us to make much headway. I'm not happy about that and I want that to change.
One can agree or disagree with Heffley's opinion, but the conversation does not support Davis claim that Heffley is engaged in "the most vicious and racially offensive propaganda deliberately designed to thwart the socio-political advancement of people of color."
My Response: Of course, I'm not surprised that Farrell doesn't find it racially offensive. That's part of the problem.
If Davis had misunderstood Heffley's remarks, taken offense, and sought redress, this matter would be now settled, as Heffley immediately offered an apology.
My Response: I realize that when the truth is not on some people's side, they won't tell it. This is a complete fabrication! She did not offer an immediate apology! Patty's attempt at an apology came 14 days later. The facts are the facts. When I questioned her as to what she meant by those statements immediately after she made them, that would have been the time to offer an apology or to clear anything up that I may have misunderstood. But she didn't. She let those statements brew for a whole two weeks. And brew they did! Am I to assume that this is just a mere coincidence that nothing in the form of an apology was forthcoming from her until I went public and let it be known that I wasn't going to tolerate her statements?
Furthermore, her "apology" was the classic non-apology often offered by politicians exposed for insensitive statements – she said her comments "should have only been heard by me" and then justified them by saying they were prompted by her indignation about my allegedly doing no work on the LSB.
Davis' unfounded allegations of racism are a more serious breach than Heffley's rude and insensitive reaction to Davis' election to the board. Davis claimed the comment Heffley made after a meeting of the WBAI LSB "embodies her arrogant belief in White skin privilege. . .that no Black person should ever be treated the same as a White person." She described Heffley as a person whose attitudes are "racist and incendiary" aligned with "most reactionary forces of this country."
My Response: This is a very loaded statement. My allegations are not unfounded. But I do believe that Chris, along with the signators of his letter, feel that my speaking out against it is a more serious breach than Patty's comments, because the default thinking of many in this country is that White people have the right to be as racist and as vicious toward Black people as they want to be. But Black people are not supposed to speak up and fight back. And many people can't stand the idea of Black people empowering themselves to fight against racism.
While Heffley has apologized for her misbehavior, Davis and others on the board have persisted, lending credence to the notion that they are willing to use personal attacks to discourage participation in Pacifica governance by those with whom they have political differences.
My Response: This is another act of desperation showing the depths that people will go to defend racism. Farrell and others are turning this around to say that I am attacking her. This is simply ridiculous. I have never ever said anything out of the way to her, nor have I ever attacked her person. She is the one that hurled vicious, unwarranted, and unprovoked statements at me. And Mr Farrell is evidently quite annoyed because I'm not laying down for this.
Davis specified in her letter that she did not consider the matter "confidential or private," and others forwarded the letter, encouraging it to be widely disseminated.
My Response: Of course, being truthful doesn't serve Mr. Farrell's purpose, so he's not going to tell that I immediately issued a public statement against the name calling and personal attacks that occurred at the 2/15/06 LSB meeting. I submitted a statement to the WBAI LSB asking that the name calling stop. I sent this public statement around to other list servs as well. Also, Vajra, the Chair of the LSB who is also a member of Justice and Unity, immediately asked that it be stopped at the meeting as well. (FYI, the one who made the comment about "white trash cracker" was also White. Having said that, I do not condone it, regardless of the person saying it.)
But make no mistake about this. I understand the anger and the rage that people feel about this. Black people and other people of consciousnes are not taking it any more! And the White community needs to for once and for all take the issue of racism far more seriously and to do everything it can to stop it, instead of defending it.
Director Michael Warren, a member of the JUC, made a disparaging reference to Heffley’s weight during a September PNB meeting. Davis was not merely idle and silent; she joined in an attempt to sanitize the minutes of the meeting and remove evidence of Warren’s insult.
My Response: The reference to my attempt to "sanitize" the meeting is disingenuous. The minutes we were voting on included a long series of statements purporting to summarize or quote from statements made during debate by various board members. I supported the motion that was made about not putting ANY comments of individuals – not just those of Michael Tarif Warren -- in the minutes as that is a longstanding practice of the PNB and most organizations that take minutes. That was the argument that was put forward because singular comments in minutes will not include the context in which they were made. Besides, an audio of the meeting in which the comments were made is available in its entirety on the web. So I wasn't trying to sanitize anything. Futhermore, I wasn't a member of the PNB when the incident Farrell referred to happened. I was only present to vote on the motion that comments of individual Board members should not be included in the minutes.
But according to the exchange I heard described during the discussion of the motion, the comments were said during a heated debate to characterize Heffley's behavior. However, I emphasize, I wasn't a member of the PNB when that debate happened. I don't know what took place or when it happened. And I can't comment on it. But I will say that in my entire time of working on the WBAI LSB that I have never known Tarif to make a rude or derogatory comment about anyone or to defend such behavior.
Ed Marshall, a JUC candidate for WBAI’s LSB, wrote on a public list-serve to board member Carolyn Birden about another board member, Berthold Reimers. Marshall described Reimers as "your boy. Your property. Your servant. Your brown skinned mascot." Reimers asked JUC embers of the LSB to repudiate these offensive remarks but Davis, along with PNB directors Bob Lederer and Ray Laforrest, has refused to do so.
My Response: I refuse, Mr. Farrell and quite a few others, to offer comments about things that I did not witness and in which I do not have the full facts. And when I don't have the full facts, I refuse to make public comments about e-mails or anything else without having both parties present and giving both a chance to speak about their actions. When Berthold made reference to the e-mail that Ed Marshall wrote, Ed wasn't at that meeting. It might be alright for Mr. Farrell to issue public statements about people without first talking to them and giving both sides a chance to present their case. But it's not alright with me. And believe me, there are many outrageous e-mails that Patty and her allies have written that I haven't issued public comments about either.
But equally as important, I never put any spin on the e-mail either! I never put any spin on it to use it to character assassinate Berthold. I never disavowed how he felt, nor did I ever deride him or demean his feelings about the e-mail. No, I am proud to say that I never used any of the tactics that Mr Farrell so obviously believes in using.
The failure of Davis and others, including Lederer and Laforrest, to insist on a consistent standard of behavior for all those participating in Pacifica governance suggests that their actions regarding Heffley are politically motivated. They ignore racist remarks by their political allies while using allegations of racism against political opponents. This drives good people away from participation in the Foundation. We have the opportunity to take a stand against such behavior, and it is important that we should do so.
And for Farrell to end with this last statement is the biggest spin and insult of all. He has just put forth a staunch defense of someone's racist behavior, and has basically said that I am in the wrong for speaking out against this horrific behavior.
I will conclude with this comment. There are a few Black people who are so enthralled with any title that they may have or any position that they may get that they are willing to go along to get along and to bury their heads in the sand on issues of racism, etc and will do anything to secure their Board and other political positions. Indivdual political opportunism is the prize that their eyes are on. Well people need to understand one thing. I'm not in that number. For me the prize is not some ego-tripping title, or some chance to sit in some seat. For me the prize is complete political and socio-economic equality for everyone and the ending of racism. And wherever I encounter racism is the place I'm going to fight it! Whether it be on the streets, in the work place, or in some Board room.
And as far as Donna Joe Warren's threat to censure me for my actions (please see below) -- do it! I've nothing to hide. I will forgo all confidentiality. I am not shutting up and I'm not backing off.
By the way. One insightful comment about Ms. Warren(someone whom I have never met and never had a conversation with). After she sent a scathing e-mail attacking "my kind," the entire grass roots movement and Michael Tarif Warren (an attorney well known for his work on behalf of political prisoners and for his work in overturning the conviction of 5 young Black teenagers who were wrongfully accused of raping the "Central Park Jogger") she sent an e-mail asking me to financially support her candidacy for Lt. Gov. of California. I think that speaks volumes for Ms. Warren. Ms. Warren might have problems with “my kind” but she obviously has no problem taking my e-mail from a source which did not authorize her to use it for personal gain, and she certainly has no problem trying to get my money.
Lisa V. Davis.
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