Editorial: The leaders we deserve

Comments trivializing the deaths of minority groups are not new to American River College's student government (Graphic by Barbara Harvey).

How many derogatory things must our student government representatives say before we can say that they’re part of a hate group?

In light of Los Rios Student Trustee Cameron Weaver’s comments speculating on whether the Holocaust actually took place, that’s a pretty good question to ask.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization, defines a hate group as one which has “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people.”

It would be one thing if Weaver’s comparison of  debating whether the Holocaust took place to fans discussing a 49ers game was an isolated incident, but we’ve had two Associated Student Body presidents in two years make comments about LGBT individuals that are equally cringeworthy.

Last year, former ASB Clubs and Events Board President Jeremy Diefenbacher exclaimed “shoot our trannies” when a member of the public wanted the board to commemorate and remember transgender individuals who’ve been murdered.

Diefenbacher went on to say his outburst was a joke.

There has been no retraction from former acting ASB Student Senate President Jorge Riley, however, who wrote on his website that “When Queers get AIDS and die that is Nature/God’s way of fixing a problem. If it were Natural, two Queers having sex would produce off-spring, instead they produce HIV.”

Riley’s bizarre comments didn’t end there.

“A teacher tells little Jonnie it’s OK for men to put their penis’s in his butt, little Jonnie looks up and says ‘would the Power Rangers really do that to me?’” Riley said.

As ARC students, we need to recognize that dealing with this problem of our elected leaders behaving this way is ours as a student body to deal with.

The image our so-called “student leaders” are presenting is one that goes beyond a healthy skepticism of society.

In saying he is unsure that the Holocaust happened, Weaver denies not only the pain and suffering of millions of murdered Jews and their families but also the persecution of Christians, disabled people, blacks and gays in the Third Reich.

How can this man represent us as students if he fails to understand that people weren’t part of a “conspiracy” when they say that they liberated, or were victims of, gas chambers and crematoriums.

Diefenbacher made a joke out of the murder of people because of their gender identity and Riley said that AIDS is God’s way of eliminating gays.

Ultimately, however, these are the representatives we deserve because in a school of almost 30,000 students, only 621 students voted in April’s election.

That is slightly over 2 percent, and that was the best election turnout at ARC in many years.

This is the voice of our college that is being presented to the world, an image already mocked on The Daily Show and reported on in the national press after the intense conflicts over gay marriage in 2008.

When students and faculty attempted to hold eight minutes of silence to commemorate slain LGBT individuals, protesters associated with student government interrupted with eight minutes of bullhorns.

The trivialization of the horrific deaths of minority groups isn’t who we are. If we want our communities and world to see that, we have to take action.

We have to take elections seriously and vote in them. We have to have students who take up the call of leadership with an eye toward representing all our students with the dignity they deserve.

In the meantime, we don’t know if there’s something in student government that attracts these kinds of people.
But we do know that if we have to question whether ASB is a hate group, something is wrong.

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2 Comments on "Editorial: The leaders we deserve"

  1. Editorial – ” The Leaders We Deserve” re student’s trustees Holocaust comments is excellent. The fact that Cameron Weaver refuses to acknowledge and refute his statements denying the Holocaust as well as apologize directly to the Jewish Community is unacceptable. As a former Los Rios trustee, who served for 20 years, and as a representative to the Jewish Community Relations Council it is clear that Mr. Weaver is not fit for service on the Los Rios Board.

  2. This piece is spot-on, thank you for writing it. My morning is made.

    Student government appeals to those who seek power and those who wish to bring about change. I’d recommend extensive candidate interviews before the election, so voters can make an informed choice. Riley, for example, has always been clear about his stance on the queer community, but it wasn’t until the national debate matured that his words were correctly recognized as hate speech, and not “traditional.” I’d prefer to not have to go through this again with the next candidate, and hope that the next person interviewing will dutifully call out this kind of behavior in the future.

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