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Who’s a Racist? School Board Trustee and Local Conservative Honcho Square Off on Twitter

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Nancy Price

School Zone

Ever wonder what a Twitter flame war looks like? Then check out the latest skirmish pitting Fresno Unified Trustee Veva Islas (tweeting not from her official trustee account but from her “Vivacious Veva” account) and longtime local conservative leader Michael Der Manouel Jr.

Der Manouel, whose Twitter name now reads “Speedy Gonzalez Lincoln,” kicked it off with a link to an article in theblaze.com that reported on the recent attack in New York City on an older Asian man after his attacker reportedly shouted a racist obscenity.

Der Manouel’s attached comment was the flamebait: “The vast majority of these attacks by by BPOC against Asians ……”

(BPOC is an acronym for “Black Person and Person of Color.” Also, Speedy Gonzales with an S is the Looney Tunes cartoon character deemed by some as a racist caricature of Mexicans, although comic Gabriel Iglesias and other Mexican-Americans are among Speedy’s supporters.)

As is frequently the case in this day and age of political discourse focusing on insults instead of substance, the “conversation” between Der Manouel, co-founder and chairman of the Lincoln Club of Fresno County, a conservative political action committee, and Islas quickly devolved into each one calling the other racist, Der Manouel telling Islas she was in over her head as a school board trustee, Islas calling Der Manouel a misogynist and suggesting he do something about his “self-hate,” and culminating with Der Manouel saying he doesn’t hate anyone, “even racists like you,” prompting Islas to proclaim “I hate racists like you.”


Also in School Zone: 

  • Fresno County schools Trustee James Martinez is featured in Daily Trojan article.
  • Fresno State switches gears, now plans in-person graduations in May.
  • Sunnyside High students come out on top.

‘Third-Grade Playground Mentality’

Tom Holyoke, a political science professor at Fresno State, tells School Zone that the tweet exchange is an example of “how low our public discourse has sunk.” Even so, the community should expect more from an elected official and a person of political prominence than a “third-grade playground mentality,” he said.

That’s not to say that racist statements or posts should be ignored or left unchallenged, Holyoke said. But instead of resorting to one-liner insults, Islas could have asked Der Manouel to cite facts to back up his tweet, he said.

As a medium, Twitter seems geared more to those kinds of one-liner exchanges, although there is room for reasoned arguments, Holyoke said. But for many Twitter users, it’s easy to type out an instantaneous comment or response without giving much thought to it.

“It comes straight out of the brain thoughtlessly and goes right out into the ether,” he said. “People need to be a whole lot more careful using these things. On the other hand, I suppose you could say it does allow people to reveal themselves for what they really are.”

When contacted by School Zone, Islas questioned the newsworthiness of a story on the Twitter exchange from her “private” account (as opposed to her trustee account, both of which are open to the public). She said her role as a Fresno Unified School Board trustee does not extend to her private account and then declined to be interviewed further.

As for Der Manouel, he said his comment was his opinion based on news reports he’s seen about the race of suspects in attacks on Asian people. Since the horrific killings by a white man of six Asian women and two others in Atlanta, some media stories have tried to pin the blame for attacks on Asians on whites, which he said is inaccurate. “I’m just fighting a perception that this is some kind of white supremacist effort. And I know that it isn’t. And she (Islas) likes to maintain that it is.”

Der Manouel said he thinks the focus of the reporting should be on the crime itself, and not on the race of the people who are being attacked or doing the attacking.

But he agrees that people who are prominent in the community and are role models should do a better job than he and Islas did on Twitter this week (which, he notes, was not their first acrimonious exchange).

Would taking the higher ground in such political discourses be better for the community? “Absolutely. … But it happens, just like it happens sometimes in conversations,” he said. “It probably happens less often in conversations when you’re in front of somebody. I don’t imagine that either of us would speak to each other in that way if we were actually sitting together and talking. That’s just the nature of the social media beast, right?”

Martinez: I May Be First LBGTQ+ Man Elected in Fresno

Fresno County School Board trustee James Martinez is featured in a story published Tuesday in the Daily Trojan, the University of Southern California’s student newspaper, about why he ran for office and how his identity as an openly LGBTQ+ man elected to office — he thinks he might be the first in Fresno County — might have an impact.

James Martinez

Martinez, who earned a degree from USC Annenberg’s online master’s of communication management program in 2018, credits his late mother with giving him the encouragement to dream big and never give up.

His first job as a city councilman’s assistant at City Hall led to jobs with Sen. Barbara Boxer’s office in Fresno and then as a field representative for Sen. Kamala Harris.

“It’s pretty surreal to know that your former boss is the Vice President of the United States,” Martinez told the Daily Trojan.

Read More →

Fresno State Plans In-Person Graduations

Fresno State’s 110th Commencement will be live after all, but without the massive University Commencement ceremony at the Save Mart Center that was a highlight of past commencement seasons — until last year anyway, when the commencements went virtual because of the pandemic. Correction: The university decided before the pandemic to forgo the main University Commencement ceremony. And although some gatherings were held virtually, colleges and schools did not hold virtual ceremonies in 2020.

Although the university had initially planned for virtual commencements this year, outcry from students and parents plus Fresno County’s improving COVID-19 infection rates and growing number of vaccinations led officials to reconsider the decision.

On Wednesday, Fresno State announced that in-person graduations will be held in six separate ceremonies for colleges and schools in Bulldog Stadium starting May 14. And it won’t just be for the Class of 2021 — members of the Class of 2020 also will be welcome to participate.

“With the expectation that Fresno County will be in a less restrictive red tier soon and the desire expressed by many students for an in-person experience, I prompted the Cabinet to consider alternatives to the previously planned virtual graduation ceremony,” interim President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval said. “We listened to the feedback from our graduating seniors and student leaders and together are designing an in-person Commencement celebration. This will be possible, provided that Fresno County remains in the red tier. We appreciate the advocacy and guidance from Associated Students, Inc. to help plan a memorable experience.”

Students will need to register and will be limited to four tickets each. Their guests will be seated in pods in the stadium to maintain distancing. The ceremonies also will be livestreamed so family members and friends who can’t attend will still be able to get in on the action.

And while graduates won’t walk across the stage, their photos will be shown on a big screen when their names are called.

And more good news for graduates: The university is waiving the $35.50 commencement activity fee.

More information will be announced as plans are developed. A new commencement website will have the latest communications and updates.

Congratulations Go To …

Sunnyside High School students have been through a lot over the past year. The southeast Fresno high school — the city’s largest — has remained closed like other district schools because of the pandemic. Beloved and longtime principal Tim Liles died last fall after a battle with brain cancer.

But no matter the obstacles, some traditions are meant to be upheld, such as winning Dell Scholarships or being admitted to Fresno State. And the Class of 2021 is no exception.

Seven students got a $20,000 Dell Scholarship that also comes with a Dell laptop and support for student and family. In a nod to student privacy, Dell no longer lists the names of scholarship winners, but needless to say Sunnyside’s students have done very well over the years at nabbing their share of the scholarships.

All seven winners this year were Doctors Academy students, two of whom also won Smittcamp Family Honors College Scholarships from Fresno State, principal Michele Anderson said.

And if you sense a big Sunnyside contingent at Fresno State this fall, you won’t be wrong: 405 seniors won admission to the university out of the 409 who applied. Anderson said the school won’t know until this fall how many of the 405 opt to enroll there over other universities or community colleges.

She credits Sunnyside counselors and teachers for making sure the seniors had what they needed for their college and scholarship applications.

And although Liles may be gone, Anderson and others will make sure he’s not forgotten: “Like Tim said, we’re changing the trajectory of lives.”

Tim Liles Way Ceremony from Fresno Unified on Vimeo.

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