Darrell Berkheimer, a fellow columnist in The Union, stirred up some of our local conservatives over the weekend with a column in Saturday’s edition headlined “Ending racism is a community-wide issue.”
Berky’s column was prompted by the recent vandalism and theft of two banners proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” hoisted by the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains, and an incident at Rollins Lake over a year ago when a black family was allegedly threatened by a guy wielding a shotgun. The district attorney still hasn’t decided if he’s going to charge anybody with a crime.
Berky wrote that leaders need to make a strong statement that prejudice and racism won’t be tolerated in the community, a proposal that seemed to upset some local conservative bloggers.
First to weigh in was Todd Juvinall, who usually bloviates at Sierra Dragon’s Breath and has a refined ability to see exactly what he wants to see. Commenting at Rebane’s Ruminations, he pointed out that the gun man may have been an outsider, we don’t know if a local committed the vandalism and theft, and suggested Berkheimer is a hypocrite for moving here instead of Oakland or Watts.
Then there was this: “It has been my experience that ‘minorities’ have always been welcome and I personally have never seen a local person show racism to them.”
George Rebane then seconded the sentiment, writing that bleeding hearts screw up their own communities then “migrate to wholesome communities that still embrace traditional American values, and then get busy in changing the local culture to one that sports a trail of devastation. We in Nevada County are in the throes of it today.”
Berky doesn’t need me to defend what he writes, but I’ve lived here longer than he has and I’ve acquired some anecdotal evidence–evidence that apparently has alluded hawkeyes like Juvinall and Rebane–that suggests we have issues that need to be addressed if we truly value the futures of the children we claim to treasure.
Is there overt racism and discrimination in western Nevada County? It’s hard to say because as the second whitest county in the state, there are few minorities to discriminate against. But that doesn’t mean locals have a positive opinion of our black fellow Americans.
There’s been at least a half-dozen incidents in the 16 years I’ve lived here where black athletes and their supporters were harassed while competing against teams at Nevada Union and Bear River. One of them even triggered a fight after the game.
The most recent incident reported in The Union was in 2014, when the girls basketball team from Sheldon High School reported taunts and coins being thrown at them during a playoff game at NU. (NU’s principal and athletic director were at the game, but claimed later they saw nothing unusual.)
Teenagers–particularly those who have never been exposed to blacks–learn these attitudes at home.
Then there are the retirees from the Bay Area and southern California who moved here to, among other reasons, get away from “those people.” A lot of them live where I live, Lake of the Pines, the most Republican precinct in the country.
Finally, there was an incident I witnessed about 10 years ago that would never happen where I come from in the Bay Area. I walked into Raley’s in Grass Valley and noticed an attractive black woman who was expensively dressed–probably a lawyer or some other professional who was in town on business.
What fascinated me was the reaction of customers who were near enough to see her–primarily older white folks. They stared at her, slack-jawed, as if an exotic bird had just flown into the store. The woman knew she was the center of attention and was clearly uncomfortable, completing her shopping as quickly as she could and then heading for the check-out line.
It may be difficult for people living here to comprehend, but whites are a minority in the world. Based on current trends, they will cease being a majority in the United States during the lifetime of the county’s teenagers. It has already happened in California.
Like it or not, our youth are going to have to co-exist and work with Americans who don’t look like them. If they go to college, their classmates and teachers will span the spectrum of racial and ethnic groups. If they go in the military after high school, they will be taking orders from blacks, Hispanics and others who don’t trace their ancestry to Europe.
If you seek a career outside Nevada County, you can bet the people you work with won’t resemble those in your graduating class. Even if you never leave Nevada County, minority influences are everywhere.
Do you drink Coke or Pepsi? Charge with a MasterCard or American Express card? Use Yahoo? Copy documents on a Xerox machine? Attend games of the Sacramento Kings? All of those firms were founded, or are run or owned by minorities.
We’re not preparing our local youth for the world they’ll live in by perpetuating racial and ethnic stereotypes. Maybe the kids will be smart enough to figure that out.