Thursday, November 02, 2006

Racism is dead.... well, not quite.

Out of Miami, another election-eve embarassment for Republicans -- and a reminder that, however much progress we have made, racism remains.

State Rep. Ralph Arza, facing arrest today for participating in expletive-laced threatening phone calls to a Miami Beach lawmaker, resigned his office Wednesday on the steps of Hialeah City Hall and said he would not seek reelection.

Arza made his announcement as prosecutors filed criminal charges of witness interference against both him and his cousin for their calls to Republican Rep. Gus Barreiro on Oct. 21 and 22, just days after Barreiro filed a Florida House rules complaint against Arza for his use of racially disparaging language.

"We had something that usually we find with street criminals, thugs, drug dealers: trying to intimidate a witness," Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said when she announced the charges Wednesday....

At his news conference hours before, Arza surrounded himself with family and friends, and asked for forgiveness for calling Barreiro a racial slur and "bitch."

How can we measure progress? Well, in the following ways: Arza was widely repudiated and forced to apologize and resign his seat. 50 years ago, that wouldn't have been the case.

But such behavior by an elected official also points up how old attitudes die hard. We'll never eradicate racism, merely ameliorate its effects; but such venom from a position of power suggests we still have a long way to go.

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