Op-Ed: MLK and Black History Month: When Kind Words and Photo Ops are Not Enough
Open Letter to Elk Grove City Council Members Steve Detrick, Pat Hume, Stephanie Nguyen, Darren Suen
Dr. Flojaune Cofer remarked at the Elk Grove MLK 2019 Legacy Breakfast that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is best remembered for the second half of the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. However, the first half of those famous remarks included a message that Elk Grove needs to revisit. Dr. King spoke about the ‘fierce urgency of now’ and against ‘the tranquilizing drug of gradualism’ that stymies progress. Many leaders in our region must learn that kind words and photo ops are not enough; they need to truly join the struggle against racism and bigotry.
During the recent holiday season, a group calling themselves the Conservative Republicans Of Wilton (CROW), displayed the Confederate flag during a holiday parade intended for children and families. They then refused to meet and discuss the matter with concerned residents, while Republican officials declined to denounce the act. Although local elected officials were notified, very few chose to speak out against those that displayed this symbol of racism, rape, torture, murder and oppression.
This most recent hate incident comes after a spate of local incidents in 2017 and 2018 which garnered national attention, including violent threats, vandalism, and schoolyard bullying. In town halls, local elected officials heard many residents describe the use of the Confederate flag to terrorize the community. “Several speakers mentioned a pickup truck with a Confederate flag intimidating African American teenagers around the city…My son called me one day and he was in tears…They said that the people in this truck, they said it was two males, and they actually made slurs towards them.” (Sacramento Bee, 10/24/17)
In response to the emotional town hall testimony, many elected officials made statements about valuing diversity. Yet, most of those officials are alarmingly silent now that there is verification of racist incidents committed by local residents. Below are the statements by elected officials that did speak out; we are pleased to hail their courage and solidarity:
“The Confederate flag is an unambiguous symbol of racism that belongs in a museum. It should not be used to terrorize or inflict fear upon anyone. Call it for what it is and have the courage to stand.” – Elk Grove Mayor Steve Ly
“Seeing photos of a float proudly displaying the Confederate Flag at the recent Wilton Winter Parade made my heart hurt.” – Cosumnes Commmunity Serivices District Director Jaclyn Moreno
“I want to express my feelings of sadness and disgust at the recent display of the Confederate Flag at the Wilton Winter Festival by a group calling itself CROW. Nothing is more divisive than the display of the flag representing the confederacy that broke away from the US, cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides, and was an attempt to protect the institution of slavery.” – CSD Director Orlando Fuentes
Elk Grove Councilmembers Suen, Hume, Detrick and Nguyen have been silent despite direct requests to speak out and make clear that our community specifically denounces the Confederate flag and any attempt to normalize it. Their attendance at the MLK Breakfast, their photo ops, and their social media posts about Black History Month are not enough. They should recall the words of Dr. King, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
We call on all elected officials representing the Elk Grove and Sacramento South County area to truly join the fight against bigotry, racism and hate. We further request that the MLK 2019 Legacy Breakfast organizers convene a town hall to educate civic leaders, elected officials, and community members on the history of the Confederate flag and a plan for real change in Elk Grove.
Signed by Elk Grove Residents:
Aliane Murphy Hassan, Vice-President, NAACP Sacramento County
Dennessa Atiles, Director, Indivisible Elk Grove CA-7
Moody Zahriya, Policy Coordinator, Council on American Islamic Relations Sacramento Valley Sonia Lewis, Director, EGUSD Untold Stories: Racism and Bigotry
Amar Shergill, Board Member, American Sikh Public Affairs Association
Sacramento County Resident:
Betty Williams, President, NAACP Sacramento County
*The views reflected in this Op-Ed are not the views of the Elk Grove Tribune or our staff and should not be construed as such.*