Sonoma County receives wake-up call on diversity
In the new Netflix series, “Colin in Black and White,” former 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick provides a glimpse into what it’s like to grow up black in a community of whites.
In one dramatization, young Colin (played by Jaden Michael) stands in the lobby of a hotel with his white parents, mom (Mary-Louise Parker) and dad (Nick Offerman). They attend a baseball tournament in high school.
The hotel manager approaches Colin’s parents and asks them, “I’m sorry, is this man bothering you?” “
“Yes, he is,” Colin’s father jokes, “but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s our son.
“OK. Wow. Carried. Of course, said the hotel manager, my church has a foster children’s program. I think I have one all the time. What country was he from?
His father replies, “Good old Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “
As the conversation unfolds, young Colin stands there, seemingly invisible to the hotel manager.
This is the episode in which young Colin endures various indignities – inflicted by hotel managers, coaches, police officers and others – while learning that the white privilege his parents have will not be available to him.
Our narrator, the real Colin, explains, “Microaggression… refers to small behavioral indignities, intentional or not, that communicate derogatory racial slurs that leave us feeling degraded, dehumanized and offended.
The term, says Kaepernick, was coined by a Harvard-trained psychiatrist named Chester M. Pierce. Pierce played football for Harvard, then became professor emeritus of education and psychiatry. He has also been a consultant for a new children’s television show. It was called “Sesame Street”.
As it happens, micro-attacks appeared on the local news last week.
When two black executives decided they didn’t want to work in the Sonoma County government, the conversation turned to the micro-attacks people of color suffered while working in the county government.
This is Sheba Person-Whitley, Executive Director of the Economic Development Board; “My time here has been tasked with doing my best to accomplish my duties, while also dealing with the stress and damage caused by racial prejudice and microaggression. “
Derrick Neal, who was to head the county’s health services department, from December 1, also changed his mind about coming to Sonoma County.
One thing is certain: It has become more difficult for Sonoma County to recruit the best candidates available and to create a workforce representative of the community it serves. As the county struggles to recover from the fires, pandemic and drought, no one should doubt the importance of economic development and health services.
Concerns about racism extend beyond the halls of county government. Board of Supervisors chair Lynda Hopkins told editor Emma Murphy that it has become necessary to ensure the safety of heads of departments of color.
It’s not what Sonoma County thinks it is. Stories of racial offenses occur in other less enlightened communities.
The truth is, Sonoma County hasn’t always lived up to its self-image as a place that welcomes all kinds of people.
This year, we learned, for example, that the rate of COVID-19 infections among Latino residents was more than double the rate of infection among white residents. This happens because Latin American families often live in overcrowded housing and because they often do these essential jobs that carry an increased risk of infection.
For years, the Santa Rosa City Council resisted proposals to hold district elections, a reform designed to reduce the domination of municipal government by whites who lived in a handful of upscale neighborhoods. Only the threat of a lawsuit changed the council, ensuring that the western neighborhoods and their concentrations of Latino residents would finally be represented.
County officials are saying all the right things now. They mean, in their words, “do better”.
After last week, we know there is still work to be done. Expect new and improved training programs. When an employee suffers indignities, it is not only bad, it hinders an employer’s ability to recruit the best and the brightest.
“If all we do is have good intentions, but we don’t change the way we do business to support our various leaders in this county, then that’s not enough,” Supervisor James said. Gore.
Last year, the board created a new agency – the Equity Office – and appointed lawyer and Santa Rosa School Board member Alegria De La Cruz as the new principal.
De La Cruz pointed out that we are losing role models for our children. “If you look at our children,” she said, “they’re black and brown; they are Asian.
The new agency reflects the changing demographics of the county. Data from the Economic Development Board tells us that 27% of the county’s residents are Latinos, and it is predicted that Latinos will be the largest ethnic group within 30 years. Thirty-three percent of Latinos are under 18, compared to 14% of white residents. The median age of Latinos is 22 years younger than the median age of whites.
Regardless of ethnicity, the success of the next generation will be critical to the county’s future prosperity.
But all the talk around the world about diversity, inclusion and equity will make no difference unless people commit to equal treatment for all. What is in people’s hearts will matter, as will the recognition that our progressive claims will mean nothing unless we wake up in a changing world.
It is not enough to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King. As critics berated the supervisory board last week, you need to follow your speech as well.
Pete Golis is a columnist for The Press Democrat. Email him at [email protected]
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