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A landlord in the small Maine city of Lewiston is declaring, “I don’t have a racist bone in my body,” which, as always, is your first sign that he’s probably done something racist. In this case, that would be making signs referring to his political foe —an Asian-American community activist named Ben Chin— as “Ho Chi Chin.” Chin isn’t Vietnamese or a turn of the century Communist revolutionary, but you knew that.
Joe Dunne, the landlord in question, has been called one of the city’s three worst landlords by local housing organizations, accused of overseeing some of the worst and most dilapidated properties in town. In his bid for mayor, Ben Chin has referred to Dunne and other landlords in town as “corporate slumlords,” saying he and the others use “legal and financial structures to shield them from liability, taxes and, apparently, moral decency.”
And so, in the deranged spirit of overreaction beloved of alleged slumlords everywhere, Dunne has admitted he’s the one who put up blaring red signs all over town. The signs feature a bunch of tiny little hammer-and-sickle insignias above a caricature of Ho Chi Minh and the words, “Don’t vote for Ho Chi Chin. Vote for more jobs, not more welfare.”
In an interview with the Portland Sun Journal, Dunne said the signs were a natural reaction to Chin “saying a lot of bad things about me.”
Chin’s ideas are “socialist, bordering on basically Communism,” Dunne added. “I did a little parody on that.”
“Some people think that’s racist,” the reporter said, with admirable neutrality. “What do you think?”
“I don’t think it’s racist at all,” Dunne replied.
“Um... I never took it as racist,” Dunne explained. “Half of my family’s black, so I’m not a racist.”
There you have it. There it is. Dunne added a moment later: “He’s been kind of abusive to me, so I figured I’d fight back a little bit.”
Even current Lewiston Mayor Robert E. Macdonald, who wrote an editorial not long ago defending Dunne and the other alleged slumlords, evidently tried to persuade Dunne not to put the signs up. MacDonald has his own slightly controversial history, telling immigrants to the city in 2012 to “leave your culture at the door.”
Chin held a rally Monday evening denouncing the signs:
Dunne says that although most of the signs have been taken down by property-owners —or even at the request of his own tenants, in the case of signs near the buildings he owns —he’ll put them back up. “Probably in a vacant lot somewhere.”
Screengrab via YouTube/Sun Journal. Big Time Small Time Dicks logo by staff male Bobby Finger.