Column: De León embodied the American dream. After racist audio leak, he’s living a political nightmare
When we got word of the racially contentious audio recording earlier this month, we were shocked. The recording was taken at a meeting of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens – a white supremacist group – between members of the group’s leadership and a man identified by police as James De León, the former president of the University of California, Riverside, who had a long history of mental illness.
And, indeed, the audio seemed very much like the kind of audio you might play at a forum on hate or to a small group of political commentators, who have not given this incident much thought.
But then we found ourselves on the front lines of one of the most contentious political debates in the United States in recent history, as the recording was leaked to local, state and national media, and a group of students began arguing on social media over the morality of the recording.
We were stunned, then, at how this incident was being talked about on our college campus. How did we not know of the group and what the group did or the individuals who belonged to it? How did we not know of the role this leadership had played in bringing our school into a national spotlight?
Our initial reaction was one of disbelief that we had not heard anything about this group before, but what we’d missed was the sheer scale of the controversy. Within days, and without our personal involvement, we found ourselves on the front lines of one of the most contentious controversies in recent U.S. political history, an issue which has been playing out on our campus for the past week.
The debate was sparked by the recording, with several students arguing on social media that the recording did not represent anything we would want our school to stand for and that it was irresponsible for our school to have a leader like De León who could be so unwell.
This is not something that students in any other school have had to deal with – a leader