Archive for Friday, June 16, 2017

Statements on race spark disagreement between City Commission candidates

Christian Lyche

Christian Lyche

June 16, 2017

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Allegations of blackface and “concerning” statements on race have been added to the fray among Lawrence City Commission candidates.

City Commission candidate Bassem Chahine said that candidate Christian Lyche should publicly account for statements he made in the past that dismissed the effects of racial bias and discrimination.

“For me, it’s all about safety and what’s going on in the Trump era,” Chahine said. “A lot of people feel unsafe. Seeing rumors about him coming out, with no explanation or action being taken by him, is very concerning.”

Lyche said rumors that he's worn blackface are false, and that his past statements are being misrepresented. Screenshots of the conversation — which took place over Facebook messages — have been circulating on social media since Lyche announced his candidacy earlier this month. In the conversation, Lyche told another high school student that racism is not a barrier. Among other comments, he said that housing discrimination no longer exists and that employer policies on hairstyles such as cornrows are a preference and “not a race thing.”

In screenshots of the conversation, Lyche suggested black people can change their hair and names or find other places to work.

“Work for another black person then,” Lyche wrote at the time. “Or work for the millions of white people that don’t care about your name. Yes one in a million people are racists. It exists. Not a real barrier though. Capitalism discriminated against NOBODY.”

Lyche told the Journal-World this week that the conversation occurred about a year and half ago during the presidential campaign season. Lyche, now 19 and a University of Kansas student, said the things he said in that conversation “don’t really represent my views anymore.”

Still, Lyche said the statements weren’t meant to be discriminatory.

“I think it was just that I wasn’t privy to how much it existed in real life,” Lyche said. “But again, nothing that I said was discriminatory. It wasn’t meant that way, and even if you read it, I don’t think there’s any way a normal person can take from it that I am being like that.”

Chahine said the comments are hurtful and resonated personally.

“My name is Bassem Mohammed Bassam Chahine, and I am not going to change my name and image in order to get people's votes,” Chahine said. “I’m proud to be an Arab-American.”

Chahine recently responded with a public post on his Facebook page. The post, in part, paraphrased Lyche’s statements as “if minorities want to get jobs then they should transform themselves to be as white as possible.”

Lyche said that Chahine “just made up quotes to smear me,” and he encouraged people to actually talk to people who know him.

A picture uploaded in 2009 of Christian Lyche has been circulating on social media. Lyche, 19, is running for City Commission.

A picture uploaded in 2009 of Christian Lyche has been circulating on social media. Lyche, 19, is running for City Commission.

Lyche said the controversy about whether he dressed in blackface is also off-base. The alleged picture of him in blackface is him at the age of nine in a Halloween mask, he said, as part of what he described as a “hippy grandma” costume. He is wearing a tie-dyed shirt and peace pendant, and the mask is reddish-purple with red lips and a black curly-haired wig.

Lyche said that calling the mask blackface is “absolute nonsense.” He said that a narrative is being pushed that he is bigoted, and they “took anything they could get.”

“I have never worn blackface in my life,” Lyche said. “Up until last week I didn’t even know what blackface was.”

In the comment made on his Facebook page, Chahine also referred to the allegations of Lyche wearing blackface. Chahine made reference to Lyche's controversial Facebook posts and then said: "This, in addition to a posting of a picture of himself in blackface on his public profile, are enough to show that there may be something disturbing going on with this young man."

But at no point in the post did Chahine acknowledge that the photo was of Lyche as a child, and that the photo does appear to be of a Halloween mask. When Chahine was asked by the Journal-World whether he felt it was important to include that context as part of his allegations, Chahine only said he'd gotten a lot of messages from people about the masked picture and Lyche's conversation, and said he felt he had to provide his reaction.

“In the end, it was a day where I got a lot of messages about this exact topic,” Chahine said.

There were two other photos that also appeared of young men with black shoe polish or paint on their bodies and faces at a football game. Some social media users said Lyche was one of those in the picture, but he said that was false.

In another part of the screenshotted conversation, Lyche said everyone faces bias, noting “there are thousands of sexist feminists that wouldn’t hire me because I’m a republican white man.”

“Every race on the planet had some kind of bias," Lyche wrote at the time. "It doesn’t mean you can’t overcome it. Everyone has a different background. That doesn’t mean you need to exploit it for sympathy.”

Looking at that statement again, Lyche said that since going to college and meeting more people, he’s become more aware.

“I think at the time, I didn’t realize how big of an issue it was,” Lyche said. “And so I think I was on the side of minimizing it. I’ve always just been told, ‘you work hard, you do what you can, you make a living.' And again, that’s not really as simple as it is when you get out there.”

Chahine said he thinks Lyche needs to do more to address the situation, such as reaching out to groups such as the NAACP or Black Lives Matter.

“It’s still concerning,” Chahine said. “I see through action and not through words, and I haven’t seen anything from him.”

Lyche has also traded allegations of wrongdoing with incumbent candidate Matthew Herbert. The terms of commissioners Lisa Larsen, Mike Amyx and Herbert are expiring this year. The other candidates are: Larsen, Bassem Chahine, Dustin Stumblingbear, Jennifer Ananda, Ken Easthouse and Mike Anderson.

The filing deadline for the City Commission race was June 1. An Aug. 1 primary will narrow the field to six candidates.

Comments

Michael Dennis 5 months ago

Enough smoke, probably fire. A lot of smoke in just 19 years.

Brett McCabe 5 months ago

So, Chahine shares the same lack of judgement as Herbert. These are the two that concern me, not Lyche. Why are they engaging with him? He's irrelevant to the election.

The city actually has real challenges, it would be nice to have some real candidates.

Deborah Snyder 5 months ago

I am sooooo tired of the drama surrounding chahine, Herbert (and now Lyche). These three do not meet my criteria for city commissioners. It's all about them, and it's way too similar to the crap drama playing out on the state and federal levels

Paul Beyer 5 months ago

None of the 3 clowns belong in any elected office.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 5 months ago

“there are thousands of sexist feminists that wouldn’t hire me because I’m a republican white man.”

Umm, most "sexist feminists" wouldn't ask people which political party that an employee belongs to, unless said "sexist feminists" was working for a political party. It's against the law to refuse to hire people, because of their political beliefs. It's called 1st Amendment, Lyche.

And Deborah and Paul are right. If you want to run for office, we better start hearing about city issues. But I can tell you right now, I wouldn't even consider Lyche. Maybe Herbert and Chahine need to start telling us why we need to vote for them. Lyche is a distraction. He has never had a chance of winning.

Bob Smith 5 months ago

"...Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances..." Don't see anything there about private hiring practices, Dorothy.

David Holroyd 5 months ago

Someone needs a write in campaign.

Scott Quenette 5 months ago

How do these people expect to be elected if they cannot properly virtue signal?

Calvin Anders 5 months ago

Is Mr. Lyche running as some sort of private joke or wager? He is beginning to seem more and more like someone who is trying to stir the pot rather than a serious candidate. His rhetoric and poorly constructed lies about his opponents seem more geared to a bad movie about a high school student council election. His cultural and racial sensitivity seem exaggeratedly bad. His choice to post the picture in question on social media seems designed to generate reaction. It's one thing for a nine year old to be ignorant of the implications of such a costume. It's quite another for an adult to celebrate it. This all is starting to feel more like an Andy Kaufman style long form joke where Lyche works up the Lawrence community and then he and his college buddies sit around laughing about it. If so, it's still racist and stupid, but one might want to consider paying him less attention. I think he is feeding off the attention.

Nathan Anderson 5 months ago

What a dumpster fire. Zero chance I'll vote for any of the people involved in this drama.

David Holroyd 5 months ago

What have the incombent commissioners running accomplished? Does anyone know? Do they know? Herbert was giving his pay away to charity..how's that going? Before withholding or after?

Not one the commissioners has commented on the parking revenue from the HERE parking meters nor the fines to be collected by the city. Not even one Mr. Boley who lobbied to use money for affordable housing..which is in reality a nomenlature for those with guilt about living in homes better than others. Not sure what a good house or a bad house. The "Alamo" house on Connecticut must have been a bad house and got torn down.

So, what has Ms. Larsen accomplished on the commission, and Mr. Herbert?

Bob Reinsch 5 months ago

It's just like anything else and asking, "Given the options before me, do I choose this candidate or can we do better?". Sometimes the choice is hard. Sometimes the choice is easy.

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