Readers comments 8-18-17
Justice for all
As lifelong human rights activists, we repudiate the deplorable violence instigated by white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, and throughout other cities across our country.
As members of families who fought against Nazism in WWII, and who lost members to the Nazi Holocaust, we join those who are supporting the call for the immediate resignation of the President and all members of his administration who, through their policy actions and public statements, fail to unequivocally support our nation’s founding principles of human decency, equality and justice for all.
Glenn A. Goodwin
Committee on Human Relations
The Claremont Committee on Human Relations was created by the city council—and reestablished in 2017—to reflect our community’s most deeply held values, respecting the common humanity and essential equality of all human beings.
The recent surge in violent, organized hate-inspired white supremacy groups such as the KKK and other neo-Nazi organizations represents a repudiation of such values.
As resolved by the Claremont City Council, Claremont has a longstanding commitment to diversity and safeguarding the civil rights, safety and dignity of all people. There is no place in this community for hatred, injustice or bigotry.
We call upon all members of the community to join us in helping to realize a more just and equal society for all our residents and guests.
Chair, Committee on Human Relations
Taking a stand
If the recent events in Charlottesville centered on Nazi and white supremacist protests over the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the violent clash with counter protesters resulting in the death of three and injury of many weren’t horrible enough, the president’s incendiary response blaming “both sides” is even more disgusting and dangerous.
President Trump’s doubling down of that message in his wild and shocking Q and A on Tuesday from his gilded tower makes it clear: the president is an existential threat to our nation. There is no question in my mind that there will be more violence. He has empowered the keepers of the old Confederacy, and they openly thank him.
According to American history books, from 1861 to 1865, the Civil War resolved fundamental questions of the central authority of the federal government versus a looser confederation of sovereign states and whether we were truly to be a nation where all “men” were created equal instead of one that would permit slavery. But in the hearts and minds of many, it did not. In the deeds of individuals, as well as local, state and federal governments, it did not. The American Civil War never ended.
It did officially end slavery, of course, and to some extent affirmed the supremacy of the federal government, but we have never stopped fighting political, legal and cultural battles over the fundamental issues of states’ rights and just exactly who was, and who was not, entitled to the full benefits of citizenship—be they black, Hispanic, Jew, Muslim, female or LGBT.
Since the election of Barack Obama, many of these issues have boiled up and perhaps provoked the Republican Party, inheritors of the Confederate torch, in a last-ditch effort to hold on to white male, heterosexual political dominance and to elect a racist, misogynist and authoritarian for president.
Either we are at the end times of our republic or we will be reborn from this. Everything is upside down now. The mechanism that was supposed to keep a maniac like Donald Trump out of the White House has, in fact, put him there.
The system of checks and balances, having been subverted and weakened by gerrymandering, the corrupting influence of big money combined with the stealing of a Supreme Court appointment, the usurpation of truth by right wing media takeovers of national, local and internet purveyors of propaganda, and the dismissive response by the GOP to the attack on our electoral integrity by the Russians, cannot be relied upon to save our republic.
The mainstream media has only just begun to fight back, but they were so seduced by ratings and ad revenue for so long it is not certain they can regain the trust of enough of the population to save us. At this point, it is up to us—average citizens or perhaps not-so-average citizens—to take on the fight and to provide cover for leaders in government and the media willing to fight with us. This cannot and will not stand.
Civil Rights in Claremont
Growing up in a city that once practiced racially restrictive covenants, the residents of Claremont’s historic Arbol Verde Mexican American community were victimized by institutional racism and many of them, like my mother Nellie, had to endure the shame of attending segregated schools.
Mexican Americans, the majority of Native American ancestry, were not allowed to mix with Claremont European Anglos who overextended, like Christopher Columbus, their tourist visas.
As part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty 52 years ago, a Claremont Teen Post was established in the Arbol Verde barrio. Similar teen posts were established throughout Los Angeles County to bring diverse minority youth together in the great American experiment of integration that was sweeping the country in the advent of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act.
President Johnson stepped up to the challenge. He provided unquestionable leadership in his healing and unifying efforts to eradicate the divisive and restrictive racial covenants when the American original sin of slavery was created after Columbus landed on the Carribean island of Hispanola in 1492 and remarked to his Catholic Spanish conquistadores how easy it would be to enslave the Taino Native Americans who greeted him with gifts and open arms of friendship.
In August 1965, our East Barrio Claremont Teen Post had the privilege to meet with the Watts Teen Post in the days after the Watts riots. Watts, like many other LA County communities, also had a history of racial restrictive covenants. As the Watts riots fires were still smoldering, we Mexican American Claremont youth embraced our Watts African American sisters and brothers and understood, with empathy and compassion, their rage against institutionalized racism.
But a spiritual miracle occurred on that hot and balmy August 1965 summer day. Dr. Martin Luther King arrived to survey the property damage and engage with us black and brown youth in prayer. He admonished many of the African American youth who began to chant, “Burn, baby burn!” He shared that love and non-violence must trump hate and violence. Then he, and the other civil rights activists and elders that accompanied him, instructed us teenage youth to recite the following poem:
Don’t hate the white,
Don’t hate the black,
If you get bit,
Just hate the bite.
These four lines of poetry served as the strategic anthem for all Americans who worked and participated in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The poem was embraced by American clergy from a variety of faith traditions, who were the spiritual backbone and cornerstone of the movement.
The civil rights movement and the great American experiment of integration were founded on moral spiritual principles. Institutional racism, not the racist sinner, was the obstacle to overcome. Hence, the old spiritual song, “We Shall Overcome,” became the national anthem of the civil rights movement.
When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, I was emotionally moved and touched when I saw tears rolling down Jesse Jackson’s cheeks as the national media focused on his face. Those tears were not tears that symbolized a new post-racial America. Those tears, like the tears running down my cheeks too, were the tears of our ancestors who were historically oppressed by the false and evil ideology of white supremacy. Those tears symbolized the pain of all the African-American and Native American families whose relatives were systematically lynched and murdered post American Civil War Reconstruction.
We civil rights workers of the ‘60s knew that even with the election of the first United States president of color, the struggle and the work was not complete. Charlottesville is clear evidence that the work needs to be continued.
Then in 2015, the Claremont section of the Arbol Verde neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Sites for its pioneering efforts to create and establish Claremont’s first integrated and multi-ethnic community during the early 1950s, thanks to the efforts of David Shearer of Claremont Heritage, my cousin John Dominguez and Claremont McKenna College, which was Arbol Verde Preservation Committee’s adversary for many years. Civility does work.
As we move forward in this historic divisive time in America, we need to continue to employ spiritual and moral principles in our struggle to overcome racial injustice and overt racism.
As a community and a nation, we need to come together, embrace each other and stop blaming each other. This was the message I gave when I led the counterdemonstration at Memorial Park nearly 10 years ago when more than 400 Pomona Valley residents came out in a spirit of love and unity to protest the neo-Nazi’s message of hate and racism they brought to Claremont.
As historically oppressed communities of color, although victimized because of the color of our skin, we cannot continue living as victims. We must forgive and love each other and yet stand up and get involved in fighting evil. More apathy leads to less democracy. What we need is to get more citizens on the cutting edge of the decision-making process. This is what makes democracy work.
First Nations Purepecha Elder