Noreen Mazelis wrote in to say:
“Per Sunday’s Enterprise (‘Briefly,’ Page A3) Lamar Heystek will be on a panel with three other privileged men to discuss ‘struggle.’ ”
Dunning’s insensitive adjoinder was:
wow, nobody knows the trouble he’s seen, overcoming his college education and teaching position at UC Davis to become one of the youngest City Council members in Davis city history … struggle? … Lamar? … heck, he’s not old enough to have even struggled with a razor …
People defend Dunning as being funny and making fun of everyone equally, but this was not funny. This was a mean-spirited and vicious attack by Mazelis.
Moreover, this is an example of sheer laziness by Dunning. If Dunning wants to criticize Heystek for being privileged and poke fun of the perception that Heystek has lived an easy life, perhaps he ought to actually get off his rear end and do some verification.
As it turns out nothing could be further from the truth. In the light of the truth, Dunning’s quips and lack of investigation are absolutely inexcusable and appalling. This is a stunning example of outright irresponsible commentary by Dunning. As I said, there is nothing funny here. Heystek has never ridden the train about the tough life he has lived and that is to his credit. But I feel utterly compelled to set the record straight.
I knew that Heystek did not come from a privileged background. What I did not know is just how disadvantaged he was.
Heystek’s friends report he grew up in very impoverished parts of Oakland, before his family moved to a very modest neighborhood in San Leandro. He and his twin brother (who has served 8 years as a Bay Area School Board member) used to have to run home from school because the neighborhood they lived in was so dangerous. It was common place to be beaten up or robbed and shootings were frequent. Lamar, his brother and older sister (who is a longtime Marine Corps veteran currently serving in Iraq) learned to protect themselves by running to and from school to avoid the violence of the streets.
Heystek’s mother suffers from a chronic and debilitating illness and was not able to help in the raising of the children. His father worked long hours at very modest jobs to support the children and care for his wife.
While attending San Leandro High School, Heystek went to work at a Safeway store beginning a 9 year career as a retail clerk in the grocery business. When he was admitted to UC Davis he transferred to the Market Place Safeway in Davis working full time to support himself and afford his schooling both as an undergraduate and a graduate student.
Heystek is very close to and protective of his family. He rarely speaks publicly or privately of his background and the hardships he and his siblings faced growing up. Nonetheless he has a compelling personal story of overcoming adversity, poverty and building a credible and compassionate life.
Perhaps Dunning and Mazelis ought to do some research before they make assumptions about people’s background and use it to attack them. Heystek’s background is anything but the musical whimsy that Dunning’s insensitive, snide and hurtful remarks imply. Both Dunning and Mazelis owe Heystek a formal apology in the Davis Enterprise.
—Doug Paul Davis Reporting