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After 18 hate incidents, Human Relations Commission asks City Council to take action

Commission presented findings of report on Black and brown experiences in Palo Alto on Tuesday

Defaced campaign signs of a Black City Council candidate. The desecration of the oldest Black church in the city. Derogatory signs at three school properties referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus." The verbal assault of a City Council member because of his Asian ethnicity. These messages of hate are among 18 that have been reported in the city in the past year, according to Human Relations Commission Chair the Rev. Kaloma Smith.

The Rev. Kaloma Smith, pastor at Unviersity AME Zion Church in Palo Alto, was reelected chair of the Human Relations Commission on Jan. 14. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

As a result of the rising verbal assaults and vandalism, the commission is drafting a letter to the council seeking more proactive measures to fight racism in Palo Alto. The letter is part of a strategy the commission is taking to move the needle on what has been relative inertia in addressing racism and inequities, members said during the commission's Jan. 14 meeting.

On Tuesday night, Jan. 19, the commission was scheduled to present a 40-plus-page report, "Black and Brown Palo Alto — History and Current Experience," which the council directed them to prepare.

The report found that Black and brown residents consistently experience microaggressions on a daily basis, from being racially profiled by police to being followed in stores and treated differently compared to white people. Students have said they have no role models and are not taught about positive figures or contributions by people of color, and, when they bring the issue to the attention of a teacher, they are met with hostility.

The report recommends that the city partner with 100 local leaders to hold community circles about race and belonging in the next year; form 100 community groups to meet and discuss issues of race and belonging over the next 24 months; and compile a report and findings from the community conversations over the next 26 months.

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While the commission's goal is to build change in attitudes and perceptions through these long-term strategies, the draft letter, which the commission is still refining, asks the council to take more immediate actions.

The new document comes as hate-based incidents have been reported in the community over the past several months, including:

● The desecration and vandalization of the University AME Zion Church, the oldest black church in Palo Alto.

● The unauthorized removal of First Congregational Church of Palo Alto's Black Lives Matter sign.

● The posting of a "Wuhan Virus" sign in front of a popular coffee shop.

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● The posting of derogatory signs at three school properties this spring, referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus."

● The verbal assault of a Palo Alto council member because of his Asian ethnicity.

● The defacement of a campaign poster of the only Black candidate for council with a White Lives Matter sign.

● The distribution of "White Matters" letters at private homes.

● The defacement of a student Black Lives Matter art project by a person wearing Make America Great Again paraphernalia.

● Vandalism and removal of at least 10 Black Lives Matter signs.

"These incidents in 2020, along with other incidents in recent years — including the unauthorized leaving of anti-LGBTQ materials at the library and antisemitic materials at Gunn High School — show a disturbing trend. As a community, we need to address this problem at the root. We can no longer excuse these events as 'one-off incidents' or pranks where 'kids are just being kids.' We see a repeated pattern of hate, and it is time for us to stand and actively address these issues," Smith and Vice Chair Valerie Stinger state in their letter.

Anonymous letters denouncing the Black Lives Matter movement have been left at residences throughout Palo Alto where Black Lives Matter signs were displayed. Contributed photo; source requests anonymity.

The letter asks the council to formally state that Palo Alto is a city that doesn't accept hate crimes. It asks the city to arrest and prosecute individuals involved in hate crimes to the maximum extent of the law, and it asks the council to direct staff to create education programs about hate crimes in the city.

"In this critical time, we need the City Council as the highest elected official in our city to lead and come out emphatically against the surge of hate in our community," Smith and Stinger wrote.

At the commission's meeting last Thursday, the panel also discussed recommending the council form a community-based hate crimes commission and have the Police Department possibly form a hate crimes unit.

In a show of commitment, the commissioners unanimously voted to extend Smith's and Stinger's positions as chair and vice chair for another year to continue the progress of their work that aims to change racial inequities in the city.

View the Human Relations Commission's full report here:

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After 18 hate incidents, Human Relations Commission asks City Council to take action

Commission presented findings of report on Black and brown experiences in Palo Alto on Tuesday

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Jan 19, 2021, 2:35 pm

Defaced campaign signs of a Black City Council candidate. The desecration of the oldest Black church in the city. Derogatory signs at three school properties referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus." The verbal assault of a City Council member because of his Asian ethnicity. These messages of hate are among 18 that have been reported in the city in the past year, according to Human Relations Commission Chair the Rev. Kaloma Smith.

As a result of the rising verbal assaults and vandalism, the commission is drafting a letter to the council seeking more proactive measures to fight racism in Palo Alto. The letter is part of a strategy the commission is taking to move the needle on what has been relative inertia in addressing racism and inequities, members said during the commission's Jan. 14 meeting.

On Tuesday night, Jan. 19, the commission was scheduled to present a 40-plus-page report, "Black and Brown Palo Alto — History and Current Experience," which the council directed them to prepare.

The report found that Black and brown residents consistently experience microaggressions on a daily basis, from being racially profiled by police to being followed in stores and treated differently compared to white people. Students have said they have no role models and are not taught about positive figures or contributions by people of color, and, when they bring the issue to the attention of a teacher, they are met with hostility.

The report recommends that the city partner with 100 local leaders to hold community circles about race and belonging in the next year; form 100 community groups to meet and discuss issues of race and belonging over the next 24 months; and compile a report and findings from the community conversations over the next 26 months.

While the commission's goal is to build change in attitudes and perceptions through these long-term strategies, the draft letter, which the commission is still refining, asks the council to take more immediate actions.

The new document comes as hate-based incidents have been reported in the community over the past several months, including:

● The desecration and vandalization of the University AME Zion Church, the oldest black church in Palo Alto.

● The unauthorized removal of First Congregational Church of Palo Alto's Black Lives Matter sign.

● The posting of a "Wuhan Virus" sign in front of a popular coffee shop.

● The posting of derogatory signs at three school properties this spring, referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese Virus."

● The verbal assault of a Palo Alto council member because of his Asian ethnicity.

● The defacement of a campaign poster of the only Black candidate for council with a White Lives Matter sign.

● The distribution of "White Matters" letters at private homes.

● The defacement of a student Black Lives Matter art project by a person wearing Make America Great Again paraphernalia.

● Vandalism and removal of at least 10 Black Lives Matter signs.

"These incidents in 2020, along with other incidents in recent years — including the unauthorized leaving of anti-LGBTQ materials at the library and antisemitic materials at Gunn High School — show a disturbing trend. As a community, we need to address this problem at the root. We can no longer excuse these events as 'one-off incidents' or pranks where 'kids are just being kids.' We see a repeated pattern of hate, and it is time for us to stand and actively address these issues," Smith and Vice Chair Valerie Stinger state in their letter.

The letter asks the council to formally state that Palo Alto is a city that doesn't accept hate crimes. It asks the city to arrest and prosecute individuals involved in hate crimes to the maximum extent of the law, and it asks the council to direct staff to create education programs about hate crimes in the city.

"In this critical time, we need the City Council as the highest elected official in our city to lead and come out emphatically against the surge of hate in our community," Smith and Stinger wrote.

At the commission's meeting last Thursday, the panel also discussed recommending the council form a community-based hate crimes commission and have the Police Department possibly form a hate crimes unit.

In a show of commitment, the commissioners unanimously voted to extend Smith's and Stinger's positions as chair and vice chair for another year to continue the progress of their work that aims to change racial inequities in the city.

View the Human Relations Commission's full report here:

Comments

YP
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Jan 19, 2021 at 5:16 pm
YP, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Jan 19, 2021 at 5:16 pm

oh brother.... , yet another attempt by Palo Online to inflame racial tensions.


R. Cavendish
Registered user
another community
on Jan 19, 2021 at 6:51 pm
R. Cavendish, another community
Registered user
on Jan 19, 2021 at 6:51 pm

are these hate crimes being generated by fringe Palo Alto residents or outside agitators?

there is no place for this kind of activity whether in Palo Alto or anywhere else in the country.

as American citizens, we are (or should be) better than that.


HYM
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jan 19, 2021 at 8:33 pm
HYM, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 19, 2021 at 8:33 pm

Oh brother—Palo Altans who don’t recognize that they are part of the problem of racism in America because they can’t see that it is in their community and prefer the “peace and quiet” of oppressing BIPOC voices than actually creating change to support ALL people

Good that Palo Alto is having this! I am tired of hearing about how “surprising” that “even in our community” there’s acts of racism! Yes! There is! Now let’s do something about it


ProfvilleResident
Registered user
Professorville
on Jan 19, 2021 at 11:21 pm
ProfvilleResident, Professorville
Registered user
on Jan 19, 2021 at 11:21 pm

@HYM, thank you! Yessss!

“Peace & quiet of oppressing BIPOC voices,”and the continued protection of white fragility around these conversations.

I.e.: the racial equity workshop being hosted by the district includes disclaimers that unkind posts will be deleted. Ok. Unkind to whom? Who decides? Who holds that power to cancel voice? At some point we need to acknowledge our community has a history of extreme white fragility and performance allyship here.


julian waters
Registered user
another community
on Jan 20, 2021 at 5:57 am
julian waters, another community
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 5:57 am

There is prejudice on all corners of the Earth and perhaps Palo Alto is no different than anywhere else.

On the other hand and having grown up in Palo Alto, it is one of the most progressive cities I have ever lived in as the majority of its residents simply go about their daily lives and do not concern themselves with the cited issues (e.g. purported hate crimes) because it is not a part of their personal makeup.

It is the responsibility of the police and judicial system to investigate and prosecute these alleged incidents.

The Palo Alto that I know is a peaceful municipality that leaves social agitation and concious-raising up to outside influencers and activists.


Lateesha
Registered user
East Palo Alto
on Jan 20, 2021 at 6:23 am
Lateesha, East Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 6:23 am

The demographic history of Palo Alto points to subtle and pervasive racism.

The local real estate industry and earlier city residents did their very best to exclude African-Americans as homeowners in Palo Alto forcing many black families to seek residency in East Palo Alto & Belle Haven in Menlo Park.

The NAACP-ACLU legal intervention over Foothills Park illuminated this issue even further as thousands of Palo Alto residents signed petitions to keep non-residents from accessing the park and between the lines of each signature was a subtle statement of personal prejudice ostensibly cloud-covered by environmental concerns.

And denial is easy to feign.


View From Afar
Registered user
another community
on Jan 20, 2021 at 7:12 am
View From Afar, another community
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 7:12 am

I went to Stanford University in the late 1980s before returning to The Netherlands.

While there were some isolated incidents of racial profiling...a law enforcement crime prevention strategy at the time, things were pretty mellow in the College Terrace neighborhood where I resided.

To my recollection, there were few African-American residents in the city and everyone seemed to get along just fine.

There is also a difference between a hate crime and being non-politically correct.
Certain jokes are no longer acceptable
as they are often taken personally even though spoken in jest.

African-Americans tend to be very sensitive towards white humor directed at them but often freely joke about the attitudes and practices of white people.

In Western Europe, there is a great admiration for African-American art and culture, seemingly less in the United States where it originated. Europeans find this peculiar and perhaps it is a sign of perpetual racism in America.

When others ask me of this phenomena, I simply refer them to the American doctrine that states 'all men are created equal' noting that this statement was written by white slave owners who did not view their slaves as human beings.


Conrad Weiss
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 20, 2021 at 10:29 am
Conrad Weiss, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jan 20, 2021 at 10:29 am

Do not kid yourselves. Prejudice, racism and ethnocentrism is alive and well in Palo Alto as in other cities.

No one is going to admit to being a bigot because it is subject to ostrazation by the sanctimonious.

Jewish people, African-Americans, and Asians have been enduring discrimination for decades not only in Palo Alto but elsewhere.

Just ask any African-American if they are totally and socially accepted by the predominant white populace in Boston.

Northern states, southern states, and Palo Alto are no different. Subtlety does not erase the pandemic of racism in America.

It just prolongs the problem because even liberal white America will never fully comprehend the obstacles people of color have had to endure.


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