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Charles M. Blow


“I was a little disappointed that Katie Porter chose to run,” Karl Rubin, an emeritus professor of math, told me on the patio of a community center on the campus of the University of California, Irvine, on Monday morning.

He said that Porter, currently a Democratic congresswoman from a suburban swing district south of Los Angeles, would be great as a senator and he would be thrilled to have either her or Adam Schiff represent California in the Senate, but he believed her choice to run left her House seat vulnerable to being taken by a Republican.

Rubin was one of 13 people I spoke to who work at the university, where Porter is a tenured law professor. They are all Democrats, except for one who registered Republican to vote against Donald Trump; they live in the same faculty and staff housing that Porter has lived in; they know her better than most.

And so it was particularly striking to hear so many of them say they are unhappy about her decision to give up her House seat to run for the Senate, even though the consensus was that they respected and admired her. In fact, only four of those 13 neighbors said that they were voting for her.

Caroll Seron, an emeritus professor of criminology, pointed out that some people were “quite disappointed” that Porter announced her run for Senate so soon after being re-elected to her congressional seat; another colleague said Porter’s ambition got in the way of her service to the district.

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There was a clear sense in this group of resignation rather than enthusiasm about Schiff, the front-runner in Tuesday’s primary, even from those supporting him. As Mark Fisher, a neurology professor who is voting for Porter, put it, Schiff “is not emotionally engaged” and “he’s too intellectual, too cerebral.”

Kev Abazajian, a physics professor, had a more policy-driven opposition to Schiff, calling him “almost a conservative” because “he’s never seen a war he doesn’t like, he wasn’t part of the progressive caucus, he was part of the Blue Dog coalition.” He added: “His record, other than defending democracy, which I appreciate, has not been great in terms of progressive values.”

But in the end, most of these voters seemed to believe that Porter’s blind ambition was going to lose out to Schiff’s bland ambition.

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Black couple overcomes racism to rent to Chinese family, who show gratitude by paying rent.

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Decades ago, in the early 1900s, racism and discriminatory housing practices plagued the town of Coronado, barring many individuals from living in certain neighborhoods based on their race. In the midst of this oppressive era, an inspiring story of resilience and generosity unfolded between two families — the Thompsons, a Black couple, and the Dongs, a Chinese family.

Gus and Emma Thompson, who were among the few Black families to own property in Coronado before racial restrictions took hold, defied the norms of the time by renting their house to the Dong family. Lloyd Dong Sr., a Chinese immigrant, and his wife found solace in the Thompsons’ willingness to offer them a place to call home despite the racist barriers they faced.

Fast forward 85 years later, the sons of Lloyd Dong Sr., Ron Dong, and Lloyd Dong Jr., have decided to pay forward the kindness shown to their family by donating $5 million from the sale of the house they eventually owned to San Diego State University’s Black Resource Center. This generous gift will help expand scholarships for Black students and fund renovations at the center, creating a lasting impact on the community.

Exterior view of a single-story home

The Dongs’ family house in Coronado, originally the home of the Thompsons.

(Courtesy of Janice Dong)

This heartwarming tale of intergenerational gratitude highlights the resilience and spirit of unity that transcends racial boundaries. Brandon Gamble, the director of the Black Resource Center, expressed the profound impact of this donation on the community, emphasizing the importance of stories that challenge racism and foster a sense of camaraderie.

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Reflecting on the legacy of his father and the Thompsons, Ron Dong shared, “That was the big plus for our family, because it has made all the difference for us.” The intertwined histories of the Thompson and Dong families serve as a testament to the power of empathy and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Gus Thompson’s journey from slavery to becoming a respected community leader in Coronado, coupled with Emma Thompson’s advocacy for civil rights, exemplifies the resilience and determination of marginalized communities to thrive in the face of oppression.

Gus Thompson in 1947.

Gus Thompson in 1947.

(Norman Baynard Collection / San Diego History Center)

The legacy of allyship and support exemplified by the Thompsons extends to their willingness to assist Asian Americans facing similar discriminatory practices. This act of solidarity echoes the sentiment that in times of oppression, helping others regardless of race is not just a gesture but a necessity.

As the Dong family embraced their new home in Coronado, overcoming discrimination and forging their path to homeownership, they carried forward the spirit of resilience and unity shown to them by the Thompsons. The bond between these two families serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration in a society marred with division and prejudice.

The Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style beach resort outside San Diego, and tent city on the beach, 1908.

The Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style beach resort outside San Diego, and a tent city on the beach, 1908.

(Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

The resilience and determination displayed by the Dong family in the face of discrimination, coupled with their unwavering commitment to education and community upliftment, exemplify the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. The decision to give back to the community through education underscores the transformative power of generosity and empathy in creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

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As the Dongs’ generous donation paves the way for future generations to access educational opportunities and resources, their story serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who strive to overcome adversity and champion unity in the face of division.

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