Dentist: I am not a racist

posted by Mike on September 12th, 2006

In “Actions don’t seem neighborly,” a June 28, 2006 column in the Telegram & Gazette (now lost forever in their web archives), a columnist told the story of Worcester dentist Richard M. Blase and how his Liberian neighbors think he’s a racist. (The column caught my attention because it mentioned Mr. Blase had a sign from the local “not in my back yard” group KNIT Worcester.)

A reader points out that in a column today, from a different columnist, Mr. Blase defends himself. Additionally, Human Rights Commission Director Fran Manocchio (who has credibility ’round these parts), says that she met with the dentist twice and saw no evidence of racism.

The article mentions that there was an anti-racism vigil outside the houses this summer, which bothered the dentist. (I’ve been out of town, and hadn’t heard about the vigil before.)

Some would say the lesson here is, Don’t call someone a racist if you don’t know them.

That might be so, but I think the big lesson is, Respond to public attacks promptly. Dianne Williamson is such a contrarian, and so desperate for material, that you should be able to get “equal time” in the newspaper by just calling her.

You gotta speak up before things get out of hand. And if someone’s trying to hold an anti-racism vigil outside your house, and you’re really not a racist, become a co-sponsor. Chip in to buy the signs. Stand proudly on the sidewalk. Use the occasion to heal your relationship with your neighbors a bit.

(I wasn’t around, so I don’t know if the organizers of the vigil reached out to the dentist, but they sure should have.)

Anyhow, I’m looking forward to being back in Worcester, so I can follow these dramas closer to the action.

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8 Comments Leave a comment.

  1. On September 13, 2006 at 09:41 xradiographer said:

    >Respond to public attacks promptly.

    In other words, don’t assume that people will presume you to be innocent until proven guilty, because the court of public opinion does not work like the court of law.

    But, something bugs me about this. In other words, any time you are defamed, you should engage the defamers at their level of discourse? Or only in specific — or this specific — instances?

  2. On September 13, 2006 at 09:55 Mike said:

    Xrad: You needn’t engage the defamers at their level of discourse; feel free to use a different level. And of course, in some circumstances you should just ignore them.

    I guess what surprises me here is that the dentist waits 6 weeks to publicly rebut the charges that he’s a racist. The charges appeared in a well-written column in the daily paper. I’d say that’s serious.

    If you’re going to stay silent and let things blow over, I respect that. That can work. But responding 6 weeks later loses you both the advantages of silence and the advantages of a prompt response.

    Of course, I googled “Richard M. Blase,” and of course I didn’t find any links to white supremacist groups or anything like that. Just a license search with some mentions of probation. If I were a real journalist, I’d call the Commonwealth about this just for kicks. I might have another breaking story this morning though, we’ll see.

  3. On September 13, 2006 at 12:05 Adam (Southern California) said:

    A cardinal rule if you want to win in the court of public opinion is “Don’t react the way a guilty person would react.” JonBenet Ramsey’s parents cast themselves under deep suspicion with their behavior after the murder, and Michael Jackson’s payoff to his one-time accuser made him look guilty, too. On the other hand, maybe these people looked guilty because they *are* guilty.

    I dunno if a racist would take 6 weeks to protest that they’re not racist, but “waiting for things to blow over” when you’re publicly attacked probably isn’t a good strategy.

  4. On September 18, 2006 at 14:16 Cha-Cha said:

    Actually, the family who helped organize the protest says that they´ve been trying to ask the dentist what his problem with them is for 2 years, and he literally slams his door in their face, in addition to showing up on their front step with his camera to try to take pictures inside the house.

    The day before the protest, he turned away all the video cameras he has installed and called the family to ask to talk. Prior to this, he hadn´t answered any of their requests for a conversation.

    If you aren´t a racist, a good first step in proving otherwise would be to demonstrate a willingness to speak to your neighbors… and not two years later, either.

  5. On September 18, 2006 at 19:21 Cha-Cha said:

    I learned from a friend just now that the family who helped organize the demonstration dismissed Dianne Williamson´s words, and just said that things have been much, much better since the action.

  6. On September 19, 2006 at 09:56 Mike said:

    Cha-Cha: Thanks for turning the comments away from public relations and towards the racism issue. Good to hear the protest had some effect. Sounds like this was a great summer for activism in Worcester.

  7. On September 25, 2006 at 19:45 Cha-Cha said:

    It was a pretty good summer, although it missed you in Worcester Mike.

    I´m glad the action was effective, but I wish it hadn´t had to happen. I was pretty appalled at the Dianne Williamson article, actually. I met with the family along with other members of the Worcester Immigrant Coalition, towards the beginning of the summer. They were so nice, and so polite and calm talking to us about the situation- but underneath it, they were also tense. As Mr. Fannoh put it to me, ´´I can handle myself. It´s my kids I´m worried about.´´ Dianne Williamson goes on and on about poor Mr. Blase, who faces these supposedly unreasonable accusations. The way she wrote about it seems to me to make light of the situation of the family, who spent 2 years feeling afraid and threatened because of the color of their skin and their nationality. I think when we talk about racism, white activists (and white people in general) especially have to think about its direct effects in each case… I mean, if I seriously believed that my family was in danger because of what we look like, and then read a collumn basically dismissing my experience, I would feel afraid and angry. I don´t know if I would be able to carry myself with as much dignity as the Fannohs have throughout this entire situation. I´m glad there were members of the community in Worcester who took matters into their own hands to set things (somewhat more) right.

  8. On July 17, 2008 at 14:35 oldaquaintance said:

    Mr. Blase is my “FORMER” dentist. I don’t know if he is a racist. But I do know he is a bully and a scheister. And I wouldn’t be surprised if if he actually made some racist remarks. If it looks like a pig, sounds like a pig, smells like a pig. It probably is a pig.

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