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Community members share painful racists experiences at Healdsburg Plaza on June 11th event

Racism - We don't have that problem here — Healdsburg Responds

Jul 2, 2020

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At the end of the June 1st City Council meeting, Healdsburg leaders unwittingly gave voice to a narrative repeated by people in charge all over America, “We don’t have that problem here.”

A proposal to agendize a “deeper conversation” around race and community relations with the local police had fallen on deaf ears but after more discussion the council agreed to at least ask the police chief to make time for a brief public update about the department’s positions, conflict resolution training and current case data.

But the initial tone-deaf response—‘it would be a waste of our time to have a conversation about a problem we don’t have here’—had already struck a deeper chord. The message heard by many in a community that’s more than 30% Latinx, was that local government is blind to the daily indignities Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people endure, and that we don’t matter.

Insulted and angered, people mobilized with a petition to oust the mayor, put their racial experiences in writing and then hang them like flags around the gazebo on the downtown plaza for all to read at a June 11 rally.

As one Latino put it, “White culture is failing because they don’t listen. If they see a problem out there, they feel they are the ones to fix it, unaware their blindness created the problem in the first place. They don’t get that they are no longer in charge.”

To some, not being in charge is frightening but in the recent words of African American writer/activist, Kimberly Jones: “You’re all lucky that what Black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.”

Below are a few of the painful racists experiences shared by community members at the Healdsburg Plaza on June 11th.

Writing experiences“Go back where you came from. Those people have no business in downtown Healdsburg.” I come from a Latinx family who has been in Healdsburg since the 1960s. My grandparents picked prunes. We have had to fight to be seen and heard in the community. We matter.

My family’s interactions with the Healdsburg police have never been positive ones. From a very young age I remember my father always being pulled over and hearing excuses from cops that were along the lines of“oh it looked like your tags were expired” or “I thought your tail light was out.” My own personal experience with racism within Healdsburg happened when I was in the school system. I had the cops called on me at the age of 14 by a white teacher for crossing a school field instead of walking around the block to get to a friends house. I was frequently mistaken and for another Latinx person by the school resource officer. I have had the confederate flag waved in my face by white students who were racist. These are only interactions I recall in this moment and don’t include all of the racism I watched my siblings’ families and friends endure.

It is only recently that I’ve seen water and resources provided for Vineyard workers.

My dad works in landscaping. He takes pride in his hard work. More than once clients have refused to fairly pay him only because they believed my father couldn’t do anything about it.

Long-haired and bearded, I was racially profiled while sitting on a park bench talking on the phone.

I was pulled over into our own driveway under the pretext of a cracked taillight.

Overheard a white woman say, “I didn’t think they allowed that type here” I’m a Los Angeles native, third generation Californian, ancestors settled in Rhode Island.

My name is America; in 2015 I was told by a Starbucks customer to change my name because I didn’t represent America. I’m Mexican. I was playing Spanish music in my car and parked in the Safeway parking lot and this white woman said“she needs to listen to English; she’s in America… “

Dad, an unlicensed Landscaper, completed a job worth $4000 and the Healdsburg owners denied paying him because he was just“a Mexican who wouldn’t fight for his money because he’s illegal”.

“Your son is so cute, I hope he grows up to be a nice little Mexican boy and not a rapist like the rest of them.“ My son is four!

I’m a Latina educator in Healdsburg unified school district. A parent once insisted that I was making derogatory remarks in my class about his political beliefs in order to embarrass his son. It was not true yet he went to the school board to complain. I was devastated and very hurt by the accusation.

“Don’t wear hoop earrings. You look too Mexican.” Said to me by a coworker.

White Power Wednesdays: at Healdsburg high school students would walk down the halls, Nazi saluting one another—2013.

My mother was assaulted at the metroPCS store in Healdsburg. My mother is a black woman. The stores’ response was to promote the assaulter to manager.

Healdsburg High School put on the musical, “Hairspray”, and the teacher paid for the students to get spray tans. I was the only black student and was not cast in a main role.

I am Afro-Latina at HHS. My counselors prevented me from going to a four-year college.

“I don’t want my kid in the Mexican teacher’s classroom.“ Statement from a white parent to the principal during meeting with a Latina educator in Healdsburg unified school district.

“Every time we would turn off the lights in class, people would say “Hey,”(and insert a name of a darker-skinned student), “smile we can’t see you”.

Been told not to speak Spanish at work when the employees are Spanish speaking. It was very difficult to get the work done.

Multiple people, who’d never experienced getting pulled over by the police, experienced their first time while giving me a ride home from work or another location. Coincidence?

Having dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen patio, my family of seven got approached by two white men, walking on the sidewalk by the restaurant. They started harassing us. Mocking us,“since when did you start coming to nice restaurants?” Proceeded to take their phones out and they recorded the whole thing. We stayed quiet just like everyone else watching. Our white waiter begged them to let us eat. They kept going until they decided it was enough. Five of the seven of us worked there. That was the last time my family has eaten out together.

In seventh grade my science teacher Mrs. X Assumed that I had stolen something from her class because I was there early. It was my first day in HUSD.

Getting called “Midnight” by all the white-passing Latinos at Healdsburg High School, only because I was of darker skin complexion than typical Mexicans.

American NightmareSince I went to high school here I have spent a lot of my adult life in Healdsburg, it was important to show up for this Plaza event. There is a lot of racism in Healdsburg. Most keep it hidden but it’s there.
Here are a few of my stories:
1. As a teenager I helped cater a party where some guests dressed in black face. They thought it was hilarious. This was at a local winery.
2. An old man bartender at a local bar refused to serve my black brother until someone pointed out that he still hadn’t been served… The bartender rudely got him a drink after about a half-hour. We never returned.
3. My wages were lower than other employees with the same position and less experience.
I have so many more, too many to list. Racism is alive and well in Healdsburg. Let’s change this and be a more positive community.

Listen to the people who are keeping this town pretty. “This white girl told me I would look prettier if I straightened my hair more often so it looks less “under kept “ F__ your Eurocentric beauty standards.

At a local winery, an employee said she needed to practice her “Mexican” after hearing my friends and I speak Spanish. The customer service she then provided to us was clearly below what everyone else received.

I was raised and have lived in Healdsburg my entire life. One night after a long shift at a local restaurant I drove across town and as I approached the freeway a cop started following my sister and I. We were in an old 2000 Toyota Camry. Although we were in our uniform you can tell we are Mexican. The cop was tailgating us on the freeway and finally drove parallel to us until the last exit of Healdsburg. Why? To make us nervous, taunt us, and reminders who they are?

“You’re really cute for being a mixed baby“

My experience of racism is in the shocking health disparities between white and Latinx people. I could highlight decades of discrimination in access to healthcare and resulting poor health outcomes.

One late night after my restaurant shift my sister, 16 year-old coworker and I, were getting ready to leave the parking lot when a cop parked behind us because we “looked suspicious.” We had on aprons and wore white shirts and ties. She asked for IDs because she “recognized us.” Before we knew it, backup was there. When nothing showed up on the computer she let us go and said“You’re lucky nothing came up!”

In 2014 my daughters surprised me with a plane ticket to México. I was going on vacation for the first time since forever. I had reconnected with friends in Mexico through Facebook and my excitement was showing. I was telling everyone, but one of my coworkers burst my bubble when he said to me “It must be nice to go back home.” I said, “What do you mean this is my home!” He said“Oh I mean to visit your people.” It broke my heart. I was born here and raised here, live here, this is my home!

Dad in LandscapingRacism shows up in white people’s inability to see, acknowledge and talk about white privilege and all the ways it hurts people of color, even in Healdsburg.

I was walking down the hallway during high school when someone told me they saw me in the movie “Roots.” A movie about slavery.… I’m Black.

White people would always make comments about me talking in Spanish to other people of color while working retail.

During high school, it was rare when people would call me by my name. They usually just called me midnight,Blackie orKunta Kinte.

While working at an AT&T store here in town, some white lady said that I wasn’t helping her because I was brown and only help my people. Like what?

HES principal used to wait for charter students as they arrived late; while the ESL kids were reprimanded and sent to the office.

Got profiled by a Punch employee.

In fifth grade, my ELD teacher wouldn’t let me move up to the next level because it was going to be “too hard” for me. I kept passing the test with good grades and should have moved up. In sixth grade this white girl I sat next to would always make fun of me for being a darker Latina and having hairy arms. She didn’t even consider me Mexican she called me Indian and would ask about my red dot. Being made fun of for being a dark Latina I asked my mom what I could do to make myself lighter. Always bullied.
   During ELD the teacher wouldn’t let me move up to the next class (top/final level). because she said I wasn’t qualified. Despite me always proving her wrong this happened for two years. My counselor placed me in the HHS casa construction class because it “looked like I would enjoy it. (Me, someone who never showed interest in that class but since everyone in the class was Mexican I guess I just fit in?)

Fatty, piggy, wet back, faggot, gay ass, stupid Mexico, were all the words that I got during my senior high days what did that teach me? That kids are racist.

My math teacher always encouraged people of color to go to Universities. EID students were outcasts and continue to be outcasts by faculty teachers and students.
  At least once a week I’m asked for help finding an item when I shop at big John’s.

“Flag Fridays” at HHS white male students dressed their trucks in confederate flags. 2013 Flags aren’t allowed in HHS per student handbook. Administration did not reprimand students who flew American flags and in one case the confederate flag. However when students flew Mexican flags on Cinco de Mayo they were called into the office and told to take them down.

While working at Big John’s, I always felt the customers treated me differently compared to the other white cash register people.

Racism shows up in white people's inability to see, acknowledge and talk about white privilege and all the ways it hurts black and brown people.

At HJH, seventh-grade brother called the N word. Anger and a fight ensued. Both parties suspended for the same amount of time, no apology and no parental discussion. Unacceptable. 2012

¡No more!
¡No más!
¡No más!
¡Ojos bien ABIERTOS! (Eyes wide open)

Healdsburg charter school teachers would make me and my kid get a tour for the regular program when I wanted to apply for the charter program based on the way I look it didn’t matter that my girls dad is American and she is bilingual, that I am highly educated and an American citizen. Teachers’ comments to kids of color are unacceptable. No more!

In 2014, I chaperoned on a field trip for Healdsburg fourth graders. I watched a class of all brown students load into the back of the bus. Shortly after the charter class arrived, and I watched again as the almost entirely white class filled the front of the bus. In 2014 Healdsburg, I traveled on a de facto segregated school bus. It reflected the segregated school.

My son’s classmate told him that he should shower more/scrub better so he would look less “dirty;” he’s Mexican and naturally brown.

My experience with racism in Healdsburg. Several years ago I walked into a clothing store in the plaza park looking for a white blouse there were two clerks chatting at the counter. They just looked at me and kept chatting. Not five minutes later a white lady walked in. The clerks looked at her and greeted her “Hi, please let us know if there’s anything we can help you with.” Well, at that time I was pissed. I started walking towards the door and said “I guess my money isn’t wanted it in this store and walked away. The two clerks just looked at me with their mouth open. When I told my husband, who is born and raised in Healdsburg, he told me to call and talk with the owner. At that time I just didn’t want to deal with that. I am 100% Chicana/Mexicana. Both my parents are born in Mexico but I’m born in Texas. This really opened my eyes.

I was afraid to go to school in the morning after the 2016 election. Once at school I was approached and called a ”beaner” to my face.
  As a child back in the 60s being made fun of because my mom would pack bean burritos for lunch.

As a child back in the 60’s I was made fun of because mom would pack bean burritos for my lunch.

23 years ago a cashier gave my then husband (Mexican) I hard time when my husband asked him a question. It wasn’t until I asked the cashier “What is the problem? Are you hard of hearing?” He said, he couldn’t understand what my husband was saying. I said, “yes he has an accent, but I can understand!”

2001 I moved into my apartment. I gave the manager the deposit in cash—and she acted bothered. Her response when I handed it to her was,“You people!” I was embarrassed; I didn’t understand what she meant.

While at Safeway, someone told me “go back to Mexico” because I was talking in Spanish.

In high school, I was very involved. A teacher nominated me for homecoming queen and I actually won. The next day someone called the high school office to express their disappointment with the results. They were upset that a “thug” had won. —I’m a person of color who is now a teacher.

I grew up in Healdsburg. Sometime around sixth or seventh grade a pick up truck with three high school students drove past me as I was walking down the street and yelled F***ing N***r

During high school, 2 to 3 years ago, there was an American flag parade in the morning before school. I was walking into class when one of the white kids called me a F***ing Beaner.

The color of my skin is not a legit reason to pull me over when I’m doing nothing wrong.

While at Healdsburg high school, shortly after Trump was elected, white kids kept chanting,“Build the Wall” as they passed a big group of POC. School administration did nothing.

When I was graduating from Healdsburg High School in 2018 I was told to go to work in the fields with my hands because (the counselor) “knew” I wasn’t going to get accepted for any scholarships. She was supposed to encourage us to apply for scholarships but instead she was turning a lot of people of color away from even applying.

When I was a child playing at the park, on a few occasions the parent of a child I was playing with would come take the child away to play somewhere else away from me.

When I was on the football team some of the white kids thought it would be funny to yell“La Migra” (immigration/ICE) to get us to run“faster.”

When I was in seventh grade my substitute teacher told me that I wouldn’t make it in college and I would just be better off working in the field. I was livid. Now I’ve graduated from SFU with a BA and got into Columbia University for grad school.

While at Alliance clinic, I was waiting in line for my turn. A white woman in front of me told me that I should go back to my country. She was mad because a kid had scratched her. She continued to call us “stupid.” The kid wasn’t even mine.

I was shopping at Safeway I heard white kids shouting things about Mexicans. They started to whisper to each other when they saw me.

It’s heartbreaking as it is clear that many of my Latinx neighbors feel like they are “second class” and defer to white neighbors in Healdsburg; and don’t even feel comfortable sharing a sidewalk in our shared neighborhood. No more!

While at the park with my kids, they met and made friends with other kids. The white woman, who I’m assuming is their mom, told her kids not to hang out with“those people.”

Dad in LandscapingMany times when visitors were brought into my classroom they assumed that my white instructional assistant was the teacher, not me. — A Latina educator in HUSD

On multiple occasions spending time downtown, tourists have cross the street in an obvious manner to avoid walking past me on the sidewalk.

I was walking down Healdsburg Avenue when someone approached me and started harassing me. Totally unprovoked. After that I refused to go out by myself.

At a traffic stop once I was asked to show my “matricula” instead of my California Drivers License. The officer specifically asked for my “matricula” even after telling him plenty of times that I had my California Drivers License and was a US citizen. A matricula is equivalent to a US identification card, but is a Mexican identification card. This police officer assumed right away and identified me as a Mexican illegal person just by the color of my skin. He didn’t believe I had a license or was a US citizen.

I was banned from the property my dad lived on because I stated our rights after they entered the home without a 24-hour notice.

Whenever I go into a restaurant with a bunch of white people, they look at me weird, laugh or say things under their breath.

My third-grade teacher gave a lot of preference to all the blonde, blue-eyed girls and boys. She would call POC“trouble makers” and neglect us from our needs.

Some employees from stores around Healdsburg Plaza will follow me and “fix” anything I touch; very uncomfortable!!!

They treat me badly at work for being a darker Latinx, not speaking English and always talking in Spanish. En mi trabajo, Siempre me tratan mal Por ser morena y hablar español y no saber ingles.

You are in America, speak English.

My family was evicted twice for refusing to work for no pay.

As a server at a Mexican restaurant I’ve experienced so many backhanded compliments:“you’re too light to be Mexican, are you sure?” WFT!

An HUSD administrator put me in ESL because I’m Mexican. English is my first language…

While at work, I had someone insult me shortly after Trump was elected. It had escalated so badly, they had to call security. I quit shortly after.

I was 10 and walking down Healdsburg Avenue. I was speaking Spanish with my friends and my younger brother when a man riding a bicycle called us“spics” and pulled over and threatened us with a knife.

I was always getting pulled over just because I had an old car and came out of the fieldwork. I had my license but cops assumed I didn’t because of what I look like. While working at Big John’s someone called me a“stupid Mexican” because I got the wrong brand of baking flour…

In high school, one of my white friends ran up to me hysterical and informed me that a classmate of ours was making fun of his shoes calling them N****r shoes.

When parked outside my house someone called the cops on me because they didn’t think I was part of the neighborhood.

I have received just as much racism here from white-passing Latin as I have experienced from white people. I’m not any different because I’m darker.

“You’re too pretty to be Mexican,” said to me by a white person while working retail.

An acquaintance told me he changed gyms because he didn’t like hearing people speak Spanish.

In seventh grade, my science teacher Mrs. X assumed that I had stolen something from her class because I was there early. It was my first day in HUSD.

Our eyes are wide open“Where are you from?” “I’m from here.” “But where are you really from?” These kinds of questions create a space that further okays the idea of needing to look a certain way to belong in this country. “If you are not white blonde blue-eyed you must be an immigrant, you must not be a citizen.“

“You’re really cute for being a mixed baby.”

The principal at HES did not handle a situation when my first-grade daughter was being sexually harassed by a boy who was lifting up her shirt. The teacher did nothing, nor did the yard duty. When I came to the principal she first asked me “How many people live in her room? How many people live in your house?” I replied, ”Only us.” Then she began, “Is she an only child?” I responded“yes.” She said“Then maybe she is seeking attention.” She assumed because we are Hispanic we had a large amount of people in our house and then that she was needing attention as an only child, all before speaking to the white boy. She automatically blamed my six-year-old. Then she pulled my child out of class without my permission to again ask“Who lives with you?“ I took my child out of that school and now as a Healdsburg residence I drive my child every day to Cloverdale School and she has been happy there ever since. Racism is a huge issue!

Affordable housing and “those people” have no business in downtown Healdsburg.

Our eyes are wide open!

Comments:

Jul 2, 2020
Healdsburg might have to change it name to Karensburg. I have lived most of my life in Sonoma county. Racism in the agriculture as well as restraunt businesses is rampant. Do the owners of these business acknowledge the work of people of color? Not often enough. Healdsburg city council show out of touch they are to what actually happens. Shame on them.
- Daniel Cortez
Jul 2, 2020
I recently visited Healdsburg and I have to say that I haven’t been to such a backwards town since I was little (traveling through the mid west). I did not see a single African American, or any other ethnic group reflective of real world demographics, other than Hispanic. All I saw were Caucasians. Not exactly cosmopolitan. I would have thought the very industry that draws tourists to that town would produce a more enlightened and educated society. Unfortunately, they seem to perpetuate the ignorance and hate as many winery owners support the current administration (Jordan Winery). I certainly did not feel welcome with all the dirty looks, and rude service (if I even received it!). The schools there obviously fall short on education, particularly in cultural diversity (it’s because I grew up with people from all over the world that I learned about other cultures which broke down barriers). Racism is taught, we are not born with the trait. Your statement, “Racism shows up in white people’s inability to see, acknowledge, and talk about white privilege...” is spot on. All you have to do is read the vitriol on any of Healdsburg’s social media pages. Even local “influencers” had the audacity to post support for anti-racism (clearly for optics),posting the same exact platitudes as everyone else in their sphere, but with no sincerity. They (all white) did not want to discuss the topic...in spite of their posts stating the contrary. Whether Healdsburg cares, or not, the outside world sees you and judges you (you may not think that’s important, but the reality is Healdsburg is a town that relies on tourism dollars). It’s important that articles like this continue to be published, allow for dialogue, and for white people to stop being defensive and actually listen.
- Jan Bradi
Jul 7, 2020
I have written many articles in the P.D. about how our fellow citizens are treated. I grew up in San Francisco and everyone in my neighborhood was treated with respect, no matter your ethnicity. It was vibrant and lively because it was so diverse. I have seen racism in this county on every level and it still shocks me to hear these stories. In fact, I'm disgusted at the hate mongers who are using the President's playbook to incite what was hidden for years. I never believed the hate went away, just underground. To all and every fellow citizen, documented or not, I thank you for being an important part of our community. To others, please give everyone a smile and a nod; I promise you that you will get that in return and it will go a long way to making you a better person. By the way, to the young lady whose name is America, my Mom was named that at birth by her Italian father was so honored to be part of a new life here. Everything about empathy and respect came from her and my Dad.
- Sharon Colosi

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