Shocking example of how Sonoma County devalues human rights

Posted on July 6, 2020 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The killing of George Floyd has unleashed a much-needed reckoning with our nation’s long history of systemic racism.  Right here in Sonoma County we need to acknowledge the realities of white supremacy and the ways in which this has been manifested in police biases and in the  disproportionate enforcement of “law and order.”

Because “Black Lives Matter,” it is most dismaying to learn that Dmitra Smith has announced her resignation as Chair of the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights.  The reasons she gives for resigning are truly shocking and unacceptable: (I) although there are 15 Commissioner positions, there have been only 6 serving, including the Chair; (ii) the Commission for Human Rights has been underfunded on a shoestring budget of $12,000; (iii) a public service announcement produced by the Commission in 2017 to inform the public of racism in our communities was not funded by the BOS, nor given the permission to fundraise for its distribution.

Susan Gorin has encouraged us to “reach out to, and read, what people of color are saying about this moment in time.”  Indeed, our Board of Supervisors (BOS) needs to listen to Commissioner Dimitri Smith and the 5 other Commissioners and then announce a plan for restoring a fully functioning County Commission for Human Rights.  Only then will it be clear that the BOS is truly serious about confronting our practices of white supremacy and racism along with specific steps to address and remedy their systemic-institutional roots.

Surely, the BOS must recognize that a fully staffed and funded County Commission on Human Rights has a key institutional role to play in meeting this challenge.

— John Donnelly, Sonoma


4 thoughts on “Shocking example of how Sonoma County devalues human rights

  1. Not going to happen. The Sonoma County Alliance, composed of wealthy developer, winery, tourism, Chamber of Commerce and other white-power factions — including the Sheriff and other elected officials — is the de facto government behind the curtain which wants to starve the Human Rights baby in its crib. Its director recently resigned after yet another racist Alliance statement, this time deriding Black Lives Matter. With vast sectors of the County economy and tax base dependent on the perpetuation and subjugation of a low-wage and largely immigrant workforce a good portion of which is wink-wink undocumented and living in terror of ICE, the last thing the Alliance will tolerate is an outbreak of human rights.

  2. Um, I know No Way, so I am confident it will disappoint him to learn that the SCA has never been the main influence behind politics. This narrative is lazy and wrong. One can and does easily get elected without their endorsement. They endorsed Gina Cuclis for Supervisor at least once and she remains Not the Supervisor.

    Is the SCA influential? Yes. But in large part because so many of you who bitch and moan on social media never actually lobby your own representatives. As in, never ever. The extent of your community contribution is sharing fake documentaries and cat videos. Slacktivism is the enemy of progress.

    You have to actually put effort beyond the keyboard and hitting “like” on FB to make a difference. You have to actually write to your representatives, request a meeting, share your concerns, and provide public comment. The squeaky wheels actually squeak, hence their efficacy in politics.

    Lazy narratives abound in America. Convenience over effort does not produce change. We have a lazy, ineffectual, and dangerous president because we are so civically lazy, uninformed, and dangerously righteous.

    D’mitra Smith put in her time of service, called out the issues with the county and HRC publicly and beyond social media, therefore there are now two more seats filled and I predict a return of full funding. And, as a result of BLM and the work of our Latinx facing orgs, we now have an Equity Office at the County. Being formed and funded now.

    The SC Alliance, in contrast, is now bleeding membership and influence faster than they can save themselves. I predict a far different Alliance will emerge next year. But how many of YOU will step up to serve your community? Will you give up the habit of social media incessant complaining for actual work?

    Our collective penchant to criticize endlessly and do little to nothing to actually contribute to our communities will be the end of us. Not Trump. Not the Alliance. Your own intellectually and civic flaccidity is the problem.

    All elected officials are just people who ran for office and we voted them into that job. It’s one of the only jobs you don’t have to actually be qualified for: politician. Yet they are given a ton of power and influence. In my view, the more we complain and the less we do as citizens means we too often get the electeds we deserve: fraidy cats with spines of Play-Dough, quick to take credit for shit they likely did not even do and even faster to blame others when things go wrong. At this time, I can name only 2, maybe 3, truly outstanding elected officials in this county.

    We must participate in the world we want. Electeds cannot do it alone. Civil servants are not magical. It is on YOU too. YOU are part of the problem and the solution.

  3. Wonderful points and energy Yes Way, but because of the divergence of this County both of you are correct in some way in being both optimistic and cynical about civic leadership, because in order to be a Civic leader one must be able to have the time money and energy to afford to be a civil servant which is not easy to do in one of the most expensive counties. I am hopeful that leadership will help the change the disparity created of this truth.

    I praise you and note that many are listening reading and planning with those who are on the ground and in the boardrooms from afar, Do not let those who are not sitting beside you in official seats co-opt you or your leadership decisions, because those “no way mentioned” are both invisible and also surrounding you in those board rooms and those seats will definitely try to co-opt you and our leadership.

  4. While I do not have the time, the money or the credentials to be district 1 county supervisor. I do let Susan Gorin know what I think, every chance I get. Many of us listened in, spoke, and send e-mails on this concern at the June 23 board meeting. I hope that if real change to the sheriffs department does do come out of this ad hoc committee and the board’s action, there will be an outpouring of disgust from the voters. All of you who read the Sun and have read this piece should be e-mailing our supervisor and letting her know that real change has to come, now. If you think that the wealthy that run the valley have all the power, then speak up and pelt our supervisor with your thoughts. Also is there a real progressive out there that wants this office? The election is a long way out there, but think about it.

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