Editorial: With one Facebook rant, racism rears its ugly head again

10/20/2017 11:41 AM |

The sickening, racist rant spewed out on Facebook Sunday by Dianne Kozakiewicz — a former Riverhead school board member and the wife of the town attorney — is so foul and so awful it defies our ability to get our arms around it.

And now that this rant has been publicly exposed, what comes next? What should be done about it? What can be done about it? How can what’s done be undone?

Ms. Kozakiewicz went to a pizza restaurant in Riverhead recently and ran into some black people, which was too much for her to take. She retreated to Facebook and screamed out her contempt for them.

“I can’t take it ANYMORE!” She then went on — in broken sentences also noteworthy for the fact that she can’t spell — to scream out the N-word and said Riverhead’s African-Americans should “GO BACK TO AFRICA!!!”

This is not Ms. Kozakiewicz’s first dive into screaming outrages. In June, she left a voicemail for a News-Review editor demanding that the newspaper cover the way women are treated under Islamic Sharia law. She said she wanted the Riverhead School District to show a film on the subject, “The Stoning of Soraya M.”

“And I’m terrified,” she said in the voicemail, noting her fear that Sharia law would spread like a virus into the suburbs. “This is going to come to America; it already is,” she said.

Based on that voicemail and Sunday’s Facebook rant, it can be fairly said that Ms. Kozakiewicz has lost all self-control. Beyond that, she has revealed herself. She can’t contain her racist contempt for Riverhead’s black citizens and she seems to also believe in the sort of conspiracy theories — Sharia law in America! — spewed out by alt-right conspiracy nuts whose messages are plastered all over the internet and on social media bulletin boards read by the gullible masses.

Facebook began as a nice spot to put your baby pictures; for some, it’s now a favored dumping ground for lies, propaganda and stories made up out of whole cloth. That Russians entered the recent presidential election via Facebook to help their favored candidate only adds to the disgust.

As of this writing, Ms. Kozakiewicz has not said anything about her post. Her husband, Riverhead town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz, issued a statement apologizing for his wife’s rant. His statement, while seemingly heartfelt, cannot erase the damage done.

Mr. Kozakiewicz said he was “at a loss of words as I do not know what words can repair that which was already said … the post is beyond explanation.”

Yes, it is.

Town Supervisor Sean Walter condemned the post and went on to say, by way of some sort of explanation, that Ms. Kozakiewicz has alcohol abuse problems. Just what the connection would be between that very serious illness and her racism is certainly not clear. Not all people with alcohol problems sit at their laptops, type out the N-word and tell black Americans to go to Liberia.

Mr. Kozakiewicz is certainly right when he said that we are now living in divisive times. Some Americans rant about Latino immigrants present in their communities even as they are paying them to mow their lawns. And it is not like the Kozakiewiczes are minor figures in Riverhead: she was a school board member from 1995 to 1997, and he served as town supervisor from 2000 to 2003. They are public figures.

Tragically for our time and place, her Facebook rant does not come out of nowhere. Last May, a candidate running for Southampton Village Board in the June 16 election called village police and used the N-word to describe a group of people she said were in front of her house. When a reporter called her for comment, she used the N-word again. She said she was entitled to use it. This from a candidate for the board of one of the wealthiest communities in America.

Words really can’t do justice to any of this. It’s so awful you want to think it can’t be true. But, of course, it is. Turning the other cheek, as suggested by Mr. Walter, is not an easy answer when the hatred is this loud.

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