If Republicans really wanted to do better with African-American and other minority voters, they’d stop doing things like promoting the Faith and Freedom Picnic in Johnson County on Saturday with the slogan, “Olathe Lives Matter!”
Yes, all lives do matter, but why is the prospect of needling those who have been made to feel that their lives matter less or not at all so irresistible?
And why is this at all funny in a community where a young Indian engineer, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was shot and killed not yet five months ago after being told, “Go back where you came from!”
His life mattered, too, but somehow we don’t think that’s where you were going with this summer’s party theme.
Do you think that his widow, Sunayana Dumala, who has returned here to live despite what happened, and despite misgivings about the treatment of immigrants here, laughed too hard at that joke?
We know that it was supposed to be amusing only because David Lightner, chairman of the Olathe Republican Party, said the invitation for the annual event always “gets a little humor out there.”
He “didn’t mean anything” by yukking it up over the Black Lives Matter anti-racism movement protesting police shootings of African-Americans. And the rainbow font used in the invitation was in no way a reference to the LGBT rights movement.
“If it was taken the wrong way, I’m sorry. And I apologize,” Lightner said.
What would have been the right way to take it?
Lightner is certainly right that lots of people have said “All Lives Matter,” including President Donald Trump, who apparently wanted to appoint the Wisconsin sheriff who called Black Lives Matter a terrorist group to a top position at the Department of Homeland Security. The sheriff, David Clarke Jr., who has been accused of plagiarism and of letting a mentally ill inmate in his county jail die of dehydration a week after his water was turned off, withdrew his name from consideration for the post this week.
Whatever you think of Black Lives Matter, the pain that spawned it — of parents whose unarmed children have been killed by police — could not be any more real or any less humorous.
After Kuchibhotla was shot and killed in Olathe in February, his widow said she believes the solution is to make society “culturally stronger.”
“If you can bridge those cultural gaps, I think then people will know more about each other,” she said, and know, too, that immigrants now, like our own immigrant forebearers, “are trying to lead a happy normal life like everybody else.”
Now that would have been a great theme for the picnic.
Maybe that’s what Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is running for governor, will speak about when he addresses the crowd.