Latinos Peddling Racism Further Divides Our City


By: Atty. Robert O’Koniewski – February, 2007

Recently a local Latino publication bemoaned in inflammatory racist terms the development of the Wood Mill by Robert Ansin.

The writer speculated that the development would lead to an influx of 500-600 white residents into Lawrence. The writer was rather upset that this anticipated white migration into our city would greatly offset Latino participation in future elections, thereby ensuring victory for white candidates and defeat for Latino candidates.

Further, the writer insinuated that the residential units at the Wood Mill are priced at a level to keep Latinos out, because, as the writer stated, Latinos cannot afford to buy at such prices. Amazingly, these sentiments were echoed on local Spanish radio programming after their publication.

I am always bemused at the racist rantings of a Latino writer like this who feels there is some grand conspiracy amongst whites to shut Latinos out of the political process. Apparently, the lack of political success at the polls is due to not a lack of qualified candidates but to some Klan-like master plan cooked up and put into motion by the white overseers at City Hall and in our neighborhoods. (I am sure the sarcasm here will be lost on them.)

I read the printed comments several times and had others read it as well to make sure I saw things correctly.

Only the howling of a bitter, brain addled bigot could equate one of the most ambitious economic development projects our city has seen in some time with an overt racist attempt to disembowel Latino participation in the electoral process.

Only in Lawrence could we find attacks on a privately funded, multi-million dollar economic project that one hopes will revitalize our city’s economy, albeit with no guarantee of success, stated in terms designed to inflame and fan racist emotions within the Latino community against their white neighbors. This in a city that helped our state elect the first black governor in our history. This in a city that bends over backwards to comply with federal and state mandates on assisting Latino voters in the election process. This in a city that has witnessed a large jump in Latino homeownership due to the expansion of the city and state’s first-time homebuyer programs.

Even more astounding is the silence from the Latino community in denouncing these remarks. I am struck by the apparent acceptance of such racially motivated invective, stated not to unite us in a common purpose to improve our city but designed merely to split our community further apart.

Imagine the reaction if a white proffered the idea that we cannot have more Latinos moving in because they will take over our politics.

Such an attitude has no place in our city. People who harbor such beliefs frankly should peddle their racist wares elsewhere and see the type of reaction they receive. They are certainly not welcome at my doorstep nor should they be anywhere else in our community.

Robert O’Koniewski is an attorney in Lawrence and is the former campaign manager for Marcos Devers. You can email him at: