Viewpoint: Claremont City Council embraces anti-racism as a priority

On February 5th, 2022, at the Claremont City Council’s Strategic Planning Meeting, the city council named anti-racism and anti-discrimination as a priority for the city. The council also agreed to prioritize a third-party diversity, equity, and inclusion audit of our city. We enthusiastically applaud these steps in the right direction and are eager to support the city in implementing these stated priorities in tangible ways that improve the lives of all Claremont residents.

While anti-racism was ultimately embraced unanimously as a priority by the council, it was only after a lengthy discussion during which Councilmember Jennifer Stark persistently championed this essential issue. She had to push the council to specifically include the words anti-racism in our city’s priorities. One would think it would be a no-brainer for a city to adopt anti-racism as a priority. We know that nobody wants Claremont to be a racist city. Unfortunately, some of our city councilmembers used some of the same detour tactics that are all too familiar for those of us who are committed to bending the long arc of justice.

In an effort to avoid calling those councilmembers out by name, let us instead identify those tactics. One councilmember used a common tactic referred to as “right to comfort.” While he ultimately embraced anti-racism as a priority, it was only after expressing his concerns that some people will feel uncomfortable with its usage.

Maybe it would help if we defined anti-racism. Anti-racism is the practice of actively identifying and opposing racism. The goal of anti-racism is to actively change policies, behaviors, and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions. If focusing on anti-racism makes people feel uncomfortable, we need to have some tough conversations.

Another councilmember used a common tactic referred to as “whataboutism” to shift the topic away from racism to sexism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination. We are grateful that the city council was not derailed by these tactics and decided instead to include anti-discrimination as a priority alongside anti-racism. Both are critically important, but neither should deter the other from being explicitly named.

While the most important takeaway here is that the city council unanimously embraced anti-racism and anti-discrimination as a priority, we think it’s important for Claremont residents to know that something this simple brought about controversy—and debate, in large part due to a lack of understanding. We are proud and happy this all worked out, but it should not have been this hard. We cannot allow ourselves to get derailed by these tactics (gaslighting, dog whistles, and exceptionalism).

At one point in the meeting, a councilmember took great pains to express his discomfort with the word “change.” He prefers the word “evolve.” Change. Evolve. Tomato. Tomahto. Either way, change is needed. We are proud of our city in this moment. And, as always, because we love our city, we will continue to press upon it to do better. We look forward to learning the results of the forthcoming diversity, equity, and inclusion audit of Claremont.

The Claremont Change Executive Committee

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