Growing up in Minnesota I didn’t look like other kids. My Sicilian mother put a bowl on my head, cutting around it to create my signature curly-fro cut. Each summer I would spend every minute outdoors, achieving an amazing tan. That combined with slanted eyes and high cheek bones from my half Native American dad gave me a rather unique look.
I also made my own clothes, adding to my being considered rather odd. Returning to school one September, Larry Moore came up to me and said, “What are you? Are you a chink” or the N word? He was much larger than me, and by that time I had stopped biting kids who picked on me.
Recently, I listened to two Sonoma Board of Supervisors meetings where cursing and racial slurs were hurled at the supervisors and everyone listening. I wanted to speak at the September 12 meeting about the latest developments for SDC. I was hoping to voice my dissatisfaction with the state’s complete disregard for the SDC specific plan and the environmental protection of our Valley.
The meeting ran late and I didn’t get a chance to speak. Later, I listened to the meeting on video. Many did get a chance to speak about SDC, but I don’t think they were really heard. The racist rants of a few people took the board’s attention.
I could identify one of the individuals, although he did use false names sometimes. I have let Supervisor Gorin and the Anti-Defamation League know who he is. This group of people hates Jews, immigrants, and people who are any color other than white. Their big complaint is that their “free speech” is being taken away and that white people can’t practice supremacy over everyone else.
The board has decided that public comment has to be in person, no more Zoom comments. Except the board allowed public Zoom comments for a special session on September 19 for the agricultural pass program during wildfires.
Maybe they thought this was important and many from the farm worker community would want to weigh in. I listened to this meeting on video. Yes, many did speak on the issue, but the same racists were back, with more hate, and the N word. Board members Coursey and Gorin were not only able to stand up and handle the racists, they also showed understanding and compassion for farm workers and our entire community.
Watching these meetings, two things worry me about our community. Some supervisors utilized “double speak” to appease vineyard owners who consider harvest more important than the health and safety of their workers. Community members who have real and important concerns are now being denied access to local officials because of a few hate spewing bigots.
Both of these issues can be addressed. Supervisors Coursey and Gorin can push for community meetings and outreach on the agricultural pass program to make sure that the voices of workers and public health experts are heard. For Zoom public comments, perhaps a delay button, or recording comments in advance to edit out hate speech.