Racism and homophobia dominate public discussion at Supervisors’ meeting
KINGMAN – For the third meeting in a row, Mohave County Board of Supervisors’ Tuesday, Sept. 3 session was dominated by residents who continue to express their opinion on remarks made by Commissioner LaJuana Gillette and Supervisor Ron Gould.
Gillette complained online about the “browning” of America, while Gould portrayed being homosexual as a disease, likened it to alcoholism, and claimed gay people die younger. The issue started six weeks ago, and has been continuing, bringing more voices from both sides.
“Let’s be clear on what your silence condones,” said J’aime Morgaine from Indivisible Kingman to the supervisors. “This board is failing in its duty to serve this county. … Not a single one of you is sitting on this board to promote your personal agenda. So I don’t care how much you know or like LaJuana Gillette in your personal lives, you have a duty to serve all people in Mohave County.”
“I’m a constituent and I trust you,” said Royanne Ortiz from Bullhead City who showed up also to protest the idea of a new county-founded animal shelter in Kingman. “I don’t like when people come here and talk on my behalf.”
Ortiz said some residents are using “Alinsky tactic” to hinder free speech and smear opponents, referring to Saul Alinsky, the father of community organizing who died over 50 years ago. She attempted to explain what Gillette, whom she knows personally, meant: Immigrants must assimilate “for our future to survive,” something both Ortiz and Gillette agree on.
But Lloyd James Beeson, a local business owner, a gay man and a self-described pagan in a bi-racial relationship said he and his partner were offended by Gillette’s and Gould’s remarks.
“I am a business owner looking for a property to buy in the next couple of years to create jobs for Kingman,” he said. “With Gillette’s comments, where is my guarantee that I will get fair treatment?”
Beeson declared Gould and Gillette represent an outdated mindset from the 19th century. As for calling homosexuality a disease, Beeson suggested Gould, who operates an air conditioning business in Lake Havasu City, should leave it to experts in the field.
“You are not a physician or a psychiatrist,” Beeson said. “Your opinion is based on your religious beliefs, not scientific facts. Study after study shows being gay is as natural as having brown hair, or blue eyes.”
Steve Robinson from Golden Valley suggested hosting a forum on racism, immigration, sanctuary cities and undocument immigrants for local Democrats and Republicans to talk. He spoke about the history of racism within the Democratic party, including Presidents Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, and the real origins of the Ku Klux Klan.
“LaJuana Gillette misspoke, but she is not a racist,” Robinson said. “If she were, I would have been first to say.”
There is free speech in this country, but for public officials it comes with consequences, reminded Sharon Webber from Kingman
“There’s silence from you all,” she said. ”Not even an apology.”
She reminded the board how in 2018 English comedian Sacha Barron Cohen tried to portray Kingman as the capital of American racism and how hard the local community worked to prove this is not who they are.
“But I’m starting to wonder,” she said, “maybe I was wrong and this is who we are.”
Webber said the rhetoric the county allows is the same one which led to the carnage in El Paso last month, when a young white supremacist shot 22 people as a response to “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Gould jokingly remarks on how he assures everybody Gillette is not planning to shoot up Walmart, further disappointing the community.
“This is a discussion about the character and the destiny of this county and the community,” Webber said. “Is that the direction you want us to go?”