Sheriff Ian Parkinson admitted systemic racism exists in San Luis Obispo County – a turnaround from last year, when he told a Tribune reporter he “never saw any indication that systemic racism exists in this county ”.
Many see this as a positive step, albeit a bit late.
Still, the sheriff’s change of opinion annoyed some of his social media followers.
“I vomit !!!” a reviewer wrote on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page.
“I’m SMH (shaking my head) that Sheriff Parkinson would approve of this nonsense,” wrote another.
Then there’s this little gem that has racked up dozens of likes: “I understand the sheriff’s office HAD to do this and HAD to publish it. I’m sorry, but that’s hogwash.
The “it” refers to a recent report of the unit committee of the sheriff’s office.
This report, which the sheriff approved in a separate letter, finds that systemic racism “runs deep in culture, in positions of power and in every institution – local to national politics, poverty, criminal justice, housing, education, health care. , and many more in San Luis Obispo County.
What is the unity committee?
The sheriff’s office formed the unit committee in September last year, at the end of a long summer of protests against the murder of George Floyd and other racial injustices.
The group’s goal is to “come together and identify issues of race, gender and sexual orientation that are occurring in San Luis Obispo County and identify strategies to change or improve”.
The committee, made up of sheriff employees and community members, had worked quietly behind the scenes, until the report was released in late September.
The data-rich report documents what is already evident: In San Luis Obispo County, whites are overrepresented in leadership positions in local government, law enforcement, education, justice. … pretty much everywhere.
It points to traditionally inaccurate portrayals of historical figures, including images of a white Jesus at Mission San Luis Obispo.
He cites local examples of racism and anti-Semitism, such as graffiti, nooses, black faces and other incidents, many of which have already been well documented in the media.
And it includes several examples of microaggressions reported by individuals. Here are just a few:
- “Black and Latino Cal Poly students – walking downtown, each wearing a Cal Poly sweatshirt. They were confronted by an older white woman who said, “You are not a Cal Poly student. Take off that sweatshirt.
- “In the same hour in the same cafe: A white student applied for an application at a cafe in downtown SLO and received a paper application, while a Latino student was told there was no had no vacancies.
- Cal Poly teacher to Asian American student: “Wow, you speak very good English.” Student: “I was born and raised in Berkeley. “
What happens next?
With the exception of personal accounts, much of the information in the report is already available, in census data, historical records, newspaper articles and other sources.
Still, it helps to compile this in one place.
There is even more value in having the approval of a conservative, tidy sheriff.
Could the sheriff have done more?
It would have been more powerful if Parkinson had called a press conference to announce the results, rather than limiting his thoughts to a carefully crafted letter.
More powerful if the sheriff and the unit committee had held high-profile listening sessions throughout the county, to pull together even more research for the report by engaging in open dialogue with the community.
More powerful if there was a specific action plan for SLO County, rather than four rather vague goals:
- Increase public exposure of people of color in leadership and influencing positions / careers … by providing positive examples and role models for young people.
- Encourage young people of color to take leadership positions in the county.
- Investigate and combat the increase in hate crimes against racial and religious minorities.
- Research and develop strategies to fight against the mistrust of citizens (in particular of migrants and non-native English speakers) and of the police.
But this is a first step, and we will do it.
We commend Sheriff Parkinson for signing and approving the work of the committee, and we encourage him to continue this outreach and make himself available to marginalized members of our community whose stories may not cross his office. daily.
Likewise, we look forward to more work by the Unity Committee which will hopefully include engagement with local communities and more specific recommendations, both for law enforcement and other agencies. .
As for the enemies, don’t mind them, sheriff.
Let them “throw up”, nod and wallow in their anger, bitterness and disappointment. Their aggressive cynicism and blatant denial of the reality of others doesn’t help make this county a better place, and it deserves no attention.
Systemic racism is real.
It exists in the county of San Luis Obispo.
And it’s time for all the leaders here who haven’t yet done so to join Sheriff Ian Parkinson not only to recognize him but also to do something about it.
This story was originally published October 1, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.