How do you defend against a charge that you’re a racist?
And therein lies the story involving former Keene Mayor Kendall Lane.
Lane was taken to task for making a statement in a 2018 video where he “appears” to make a connection between race and crime.
It’s a complicated and long story recounted in The Sentinel last week and involves a short documentary called “Young Guns” in which the filmmaker — a student from Great Britain spending a semester at Keene State College — explores the gun culture in the United States. As a part of it he interviewed Lane two years ago.
Here’s the key Lane quote in question:
“I have theories about why New Hampshire is particularly safe.”
Then a pause on camera, then:
“Which, and unfortunately they cut both ways, and the part of the reason that New Hampshire is so safe is because, quite honestly, the state is 98 percent white. The state is very homogeneous. There’s not a lot of diversity in New Hampshire.”
Lane denied he linked the two — race and crime, and that the filmmaker edited the quotes wildly out of context. Rather than race, he was referring to the difference between urban and rural areas.
I don’t know Lane personally; I’ve seen him dining at local restaurants and at a few parties I’ve attended. But I know a lot of people who know him, and I’ve never heard a scintilla of evidence that he isn’t what he appears — a nice guy who did his best for the city for a long time.
Lane has been, if nothing else, one of the most politically and socially liberal people in Keene. I’ve criticized him in my column numerous times, as I have the City Council he led, for never passing up an opportunity to virtue-signal while ignoring more important and pressing local issues.
But if this guy’s a racist, then we’re all racists. Every damn one of us.
My broader point is that charges of racism and bigotry are flung around in such a cavalier fashion these days, and the stink sticks regardless of whether someone defends themselves. It’s a “when did you stop beating your wife?” situation for the accused.
Lane did defend himself, albeit poorly. But the unfair advantage of those making the accusation is that the defense of the accused always sounds so ... defensive. “What’s he hiding?”
Put your feet in his shoes. Something you said, or did, is used as justification to call you ... whatever. Maybe it’s an old video, or a paper you wrote, a conversation overheard by some gossip who got everything backward and spread the story with malice. It’s a yearbook picture or something you wrote in college. Or simply a rumor out on the street.
Here’s another thing that really riles me about this. I figure Mayor Lane has a lot of friends in town, him being mayor for so long. And he grew up here, too.
But I’ve not heard one word by someone defending him in public on this scurrilous charge. I monitor The Sentinel’s Facebook page and even after a week, there’s been only two comments from readers about the story, and they didn’t even pertain to the racism issue. I’ve read no letters to the editors from indignant readers, testifying to Lane’s integrity.
I have a theory: People are fearful of being labeled racist, too, so they’ll just keep quiet and stay away from it, kind of like they learned Lane caught coronavirus.
So, I’ll stand up for our former mayor, certainly the only time I’ve done that in several years of writing this column. His record speaks for itself; it’s a force field that protects him from such an unfair accusation.
This is also the irony and logical conclusion of our mad, politically correct world, where everything you say or do, however innocently, is held up to a litmus test that can be used against you.
We’re two centuries past the time we placed offenders in public stocks on central square, but they’re back in a new form. It’s a new McCarthy Era where people look about in fear, lest someone is listening.
If our former mayor can be accused of this, then so can you.
What will be your defense?