Category Archives: Systemic racism

Recent Anti-racism letters in the Benicia Herald

Collecting our thoughts here on the BenIndy…

By Roger Straw, June 29, 2021

Check out the growing number of letters sent in to our local print newspaper, the Benicia Herald: strong calls for racial justice, offers of praise where deserved, decrying of local incidents of racism, and opposition to racial bias and expressions of white supremacy.

Below is today’s listing of collected letters.  Check back regularly for new letters at the BenIndy Anti-Racism Letters page.

ANTI-RACISM LETTERS IN THE BENICIA HERALD

Benicia is definitely NOT the happy little totally progressive, inclusive community many of us have long thought it was.  Racism is real in Benicia.  See the following letters which appeared in the print edition of the Benicia Herald, and a few from the Vallejo Times-Herald(And check out Benicia Black Lives Matter: Our Voices, also published here and in the Benicia Herald.)

Benicia Herald letters on racism
Date Author Link to letter
Sunday, June 27, 2021 Brandon Greene Equity Training & Critical Race Theory – Open Letter to Solano County Board of Supervisors – Board discussion ‘disappointing but not surprising’.
Sunday, June 27, 2021 Craig Snider Reflections on Systemic Racism and White Privilege – We Can Do Better.
Friday, June 25, 2021 June Mejias Fairytale? Myth? Lie – (The children are watching & listening) – Definitions for Our Times.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021 Carrie Rehak I Can’t Breathe – Refinery fumes, George Floyd and COVID-19.
Sunday, June 13, 2021 Kathy Kerridge Implicit Bias or Outright Racism – Racism is alive and well in Benicia.
Sunday, June 13, 2021 Jean Walker Shine a Light on Solano County Sheriff – Open letter to Board of Supervisors.
Sunday, May 23, 2021 Roger Straw Intensive Care for Benicia – I See You Differently Now – A white American’s deepening awareness of Black lives.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021 Mark Christian Silence is Complicity – America not a place of liberty & justice for all, Sheriff and Solano supervisors complicit.
Sunday, May 2, 2021 C. Bart Sullivan, Esq. A World Without Prejudice Requires Vigilance – Early childhood innocence, BLM, Local writer with head in sand.
Friday, April 30, 2021 Vicki Byrum Dennis SURJ / BBLM Study & Action Course – How can whites become allies? History, racial injustice is systemic. SURJ invitation.
Wednesday, April 28, 2021 Susan Street Off the Mark As Usual – Local writer missing the mark, praising City leadership, racism is real.
Sunday, April 25, 2021 Jean Walker What Can I Do to Make Racism Go Away in Benicia? – Racism is systemic, white privilege, pleased with City Resolution 20, critical of appointments, SURJ.
Friday, April 23, 2021 Nathalie Christian White Supremacy Is Not a Cancer, It Is a Choice – Jan. 6 in D.C., Sheriff’s deputies, call to action.
Wednesday, April 21, 2021 Benicia Mayor Steve Young On the Hate-Crime & Arrest Last Weekend – Racism in Benicia, Raley’s incident, racial bias conscious and unconscious, City took first steps Equity Mgr, we can do better.
Sunday, April 18, 2021 Ralph Dennis Two Peas in a Pod – Raley’s incident, Sheriff investigation 2 peas in a pod.  Be an ally, don’t blame BLM or City hiring of Equity Mgr.
Contact the Benicia Herald – write your own letter!

To add your voice, write to Benicia Herald editor Galen Kusic at beniciaherald@gmail.com.  Note that the Benicia Herald’s online edition is not currently being maintained.  To subscribe to the print edition, email beniciacirculation@gmail.com or phone 707-745-6838.  Main phone line is 707-745-0733; fax is 707-745-8583.  Mail or stop by in person at 820 First St., Benicia, 94510.  (Not sure of days and hours.)

Solano County Board of Supes ‘not ready for topics that deal with the ugly underbelly of America’

Danette Mitchell: Is Solano County ready for a serious race discussion?

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Danette Mitchell, June 25, 2021

While many companies understand that discrimination is wrong — both legally and morally — do employers want diversity and inclusion, or do they want comfort and assimilation?

Last week’s lengthy Solano County Board of Supervisors discussion about a specific Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training became heated, sending a message that they are not ready for topics that deal with the ugly underbelly of America.

While discussing racism is an uncomfortable topic, we can’t talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion and not address race. Supervisor Erin Hannigan and human resource leadership presented a proposal to have Jei Africa, director of Marin County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services, conduct a series of equity training workshops to address race, racism, racialization, White privilege, and implicit bias.

Hannigan attended the training. She believes the education would provide the board with foundational knowledge and an understanding of the terminology from a historical perspective, adding that the topics are uncomfortable. The training would also include the history of slavery, redlining, Jim Crow, and immigration, concluding with becoming an anti-racist/multicultural organization.

Hannigan also stated that the training would help with discussions around policies, equity, and procedures because they would all speak from the same playbook. Hannigan added that city employees should see the board taking the lead on the equity training.

Supervisor Monica Brown feels the training for board members should be voluntary. She also feels the training should be embedded with other training like sexual harassment and ethics. I believe her suggestion would minimize the topics’ seriousness and shorten the training, potentially reducing the effectiveness and impact. We are dealing with a deeply rooted system that legislated and enacted inequalities that persist today. The training should be mandatory for board members.

Supervisor Mitch Mashburn supports the equity training. However, he feels the LGBTQ community and all other ethnic groups, including gender, should be discussed as well. If you support the population, specifically Black people, that has been the most marginalized, others benefit. Race will intersect with the LGBTQ community, Latinos and Asians, but not the opposite. The Black community has many examples of this, like affirmative action, which primarily benefited White women, and the Immigration Act, which pushed Black people, as a collective group, further down the economic and opportunity ladder.

Supervisor Jim Spering stated he is fully committed to equity. He also said he didn’t want one person’s perspective on history and didn’t harbor White guilt, because he has worked hard. Nonetheless, he is still the beneficiary of a system of privilege. Also, the effects of slavery in America are in our DNA, manifesting in behaviors and attitudes.

No doubt, varied emotions often surface when discussing race-related topics. Supervisor Board Chairman John Vasquez was triggered when Hannigan mentioned she lived a life of White privilege, to which he responded, “So you are going to come in and save my life?” He is undecided about the training and would like to wait on responses to the employee survey before committing. His stance appeared to be the consensus of the rest of the board.

Meanwhile, Hannigan commented, “Maybe this is not the right board for equity for this county.” She and Vasquez serve on the Ad Hoc Equity Board Subcommittee formed in 2020 to address employee equity.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are a 450-year-old set of problems that won’t be solved overnight. We are dealing with generations of ingrained behaviors, attitudes, and fears.

Nonetheless, employers want to hear the lyrics of “We Shall Overcome” — not “Strange Fruit,” describing the lynching of Black people.


Danette Mitchell — The Vacaville author is a social issues advocate. 

Making ‘good trouble’ in Benicia

Shakoor-Grantham starts city’s version of Black Lives Matter

Nimat Shakoor-Grantham founded the Benicia Chapter of the Black Lives Matter movement. (Chris Riley—Times-Herald)

Vallejo Times-Herald, by Katy St. Clair, January 13, 2021

BENICIA — “What are you doing here, shouldn’t you be in Vallejo?”

This was a question Benicia resident Nimat Shakoor-Grantham says her Black son was asked as he walked down a street in town. He had also been pulled over before and asked, again, what he was doing in Benicia, she said.

A Black woman sitting in a Benicia restaurant told Shakoor-Grantham that she was pelted with ice cubes by white males at a nearby table. The message she got was, “You don’t belong here in our space.”

As for Shakoor-Grantham, an African-American woman who has lived in Benicia since 2002, the disrespect she has seen has ranged from a man at Safeway calling her “gal” and telling her to go fetch him a cart, to threatening letters left on her doorstep — again asking, “What are you trying to do here?”

She thinks that last threat was because she founded the Benicia group of Black Lives Matter. She has had anonymous people taunting her with, “You are poking the bear, and when the bear gets poked, the bear gets mad,” or “Why are you creating trouble in Benicia?”

The “trouble” she and her BBLM colleagues are getting into is what the late Senator John Lewis would call “good trouble,” or raising awareness of inequality, bias, and prejudice among citizens in town.

“We specifically address issues with the government, city, and county,” she said. “We address issues of education and Black arts and culture. We also promote the awareness of systemic racism and bias.”

This last aspect of their work — promoting awareness of systemic racism — was highlighted by former Mayor Elizabeth Patterson on her blog “El Pat’s Forum” at the end of December.

Patterson described a council meeting where BBLM members addressed the body about a need for an equity and diversity manager, something that many cities have. The job of the manager will be to become a liaison between citizens, government and businesses to promote awareness and movement toward a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable place to live for people of color in Benicia. The hire will reach out to the school district as well as art and cultural organizations and spaces as well.

“When the recommendation was presented to council by staff and BBLM members, many council members were quick to offer ideas about what they thought BBLM needed,” wrote Patterson. “One could almost feel the insult that a white city council was telling the panel of four BBLM members what they needed.”

Shakoor-Grantham was at the meeting and agreed with this assessment, but told the Times-Herald that what struck her more was that they seemed more interested in how much it was going to cost to hire a person to do this rather than discussing the importance of having one.

“I said, these are my experiences here, what can be done about it? And I got crickets,” Shakoor-Grantham said.

Patterson agreed that discussion became money, writing “there was a lot of haggling over the cost.” She then pointed out what she described as “structural racism.”

The cost of hiring a part-time equity expert (30 hours a week) was put at $133,000, which council members said the city could not afford. However, Patterson points out, some of the same council members had recently estimated the value to the city that fees from developers bring in and they came up with $230,000.

One councilmember, she wrote, described this amount as “nothing” to the general fund, meaning in the town’s large budget they could “almost forgo” even collecting the fees.

The mayor then juxtaposed this with the proposed equity hire.

“The structural racism is clear. A council will say the city cannot afford programs that might have been beneficial to Black and Brown people, but can afford to subsidize market rate housing and businesses.”

For Shakoor-Grantham and BBLM, the mayor’s message was exactly what they have hoped to hear from government.

“I am very happy that Elizabeth had the insight, awareness, and courage to write this,” Shakoor-Grantham said. “She saw the apparent disparity and refused to remain silent as many people who shouldn’t remain silent choose to do,” she wrote in an op-ed in this paper.”

BBLM has about 30 members, she says, and everyone is committed to moving Benicia “in the right direction.” She estimates that 80 percent of the group is made up of white allies. She is quick to point out the many stereotypes that some people might have about Black Lives Matter.

“We want to work together with people, to learn and evolve together,” she said. “We aren’t trying to guilt trip white people.”

Shakoor-Grantham acknowledges that everyone, even herself, holds biases that they need to be aware of. However she says if your bias impacts the peace of another member of this community or makes them feel like they don’t belong here, it is important to address it. She feels she also has a big ally in Police Chief Erik Upson, who she says has been incredibly responsive.

“I have faith in him,” she said.

Overall, she is pleased at progress that has been made and she is looking forward to the city hiring the equity manager.

“There’s some good stuff happening, I’m really happy,” she says. “The good stuff out-shadows any of the negative.”

Benicia Black Lives Matter on structural racism: ‘we still have a long way to go’

An email by Nimat Shakoor-Grantham, Benicia Black Lives Matter Organizer  [See also BBLM on Facebook, and “Our Voices” Interviews]

A Better Benicia

 

Hello Everyone,

I just read this powerful document from Elizabeth Patterson and I must say that I am experiencing a lot of emotions. I am very Happy that Elizabeth had the insight, awareness and courage to write this. She saw the apparent disparity and refused to remain silent as many people who shouldn’t remain silent choose to do.

If no one acknowledges and speaks out about such things, then such things will continue to happen. I found this writing very enlightening and encourage all to read it. This writing is not one of blame, but of shedding light on a problem that has remained in the dark for much too long.

I am saddened because situations like this still exist and not many people are even aware of it (“There’s no racism in Benicia”) . If people are aware of it, they are choosing not to speak; Maybe because the powers that be and community members at large don’t see this as an issue, they agree with this behavior, or are too timid to say anything, as some people think it best not to “Rock the Boat.”

I assure you that the Benicia Black Lives Movement (BBLM) is here to “Rock the Boat,” not by burning, looting or hating the police (as is the falsely applied stereotype), but by bringing to the attention of the government and the citizens of Benicia that events and issues of structural, conscious/unconscious racism, bias and social injustice will be identified, called out, fought against, and will certainly not be tolerated.

This is why I am so proud of Elizabeth for writing this document. The BBLM is collaborative and will not identify challenges that need to be addressed without working with the appropriate people toward the solution. I Thank the City Staff, Mayor, Past Mayor and City Council for the support you have shown us so far, but we still have a long way to go (as is made very clear by this attached writing). I again recommend that everyone read Elizabeth’s writing and work with us to create a better Benicia for All Citizens.

Sincerely,

Nimat Shakoor-Grantham
Benicia Black Lives Matter Organizer 
https://www.facebook.com/BeniciaBLM
https://beniciablacklivesmatter.com/interviews