Does Elk Grove Have Race Relation Troubles - Many Speakers at City Council Meeting Think So

September 15, 2017 |


At the Wednesday night Elk Grove City Council meeting several individuals with various backgrounds spoke during public comment on what has become an important national challenge - race relations.

Race relations as a national issue resurfaced with the August 2014 shooting death of an unarmed man, Michael Brown, at the hands of a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown's death led to the founding of the Black Lives Matter political movement

Regardless of your political leanings, it is undeniable the election of Donald Trump as president has mobilized political movements on both sides of the political spectrum on a host of issues, the least of which has been race relations. While some residents may view this issue as an abstraction, the ugly side of this issue reared its ugly face and dropped it in Elk Grove recently.

In late August an Elk Grove mother woke to find her house had been tagged with numerous racist epitaphs. One of those can be seen in the picture posted above.

The other incident, which happened earlier this week when an Old Town Elk Grove business owner discovered her establishment had been subjected to a hate letter left on the front door. That incident is being investigated by Elk Grove Police.

At the Wednesday night meeting, over a dozen people ranging from political leaders, a labor organizer, self-described community activists, and regular citizens spoke before the city council. Uniformly, the speakers condemned these, and earlier actions by the Elk Grove City Council, and urged the issue be addressed.

The first speaker was Elk Grove resident and executive board member of the California Democratic Party, Amar Shergill who urged the city council members to adopt a resolution. That resolution, which the city council decided against adopting, condemned the Charlottesville, Virginia death of protester Heather Hyer as well as hate groups like the KKK.      

"It's time we admit Elk Grove isn't immune to the kinds of racism that we have seen in other parts of the country," he said.

Shergill also encouraged Council Members Steve Detrick and Pat Hume to reach out to less diverse and welcoming communities in the city to "have those tough conversations away from the cameras, away from the microphones" to address racism in the community.

"There is evidence to support that the hatred that has been here all along is being emboldened by the president and no longer relegated to the shadows," Elk Grove resident Denessa Ahles said.  "These hate crimes aren't new, but they are becoming more visible. The answer can't be more police."

Ahles went on to criticize Council Member Darren Suen who suggested at an earlier meeting that while the Charlottesville incident was reprehensible, he also said the city should mind its own business.

Elk Grove mayoral candidate Tracie Stafford described the manner in which the city council has selected to deal with the issue, by passing it off to the city's Multi-Cultural Committee, which organized the recent multi-cultural festival as "painful."

"To actually mention the multi-cultural festival as a way to deal with this issue is, I wouldn't even say it is insulting, it is painful," she said. "Because it means you are completely disconnected from what we deal with every day as minorities."  

Stafford went on to suggest the city form a diversity advisory commission "that has power" to conduct meetings and forums to address the issue.

"We need to change the way we think as a community, we need to acknowledge there are issues, deep-rooted issues that did not start on November 9," Stafford said. "This not about November 9, this is about Elk Grove seeing itself for what it is, and acknowledging it, and that would go a long way."

When the Elk Grove City Council discussed the comments during their report on activities, aside from Council Member Stephanie Nguyen who acknowledged further work should be undertaken, they were mostly non-committal. Among other things used to address the concerns, Council Member Pat Hume read a diversity pledge composed ahead of the 2016 multi-cultural festival. 

"That's great on paper; we need to put it into action," he said.

For the Elk Grove City Council, this matter is not going away and will need to be addressed in a meaningful, robust manner way. How they handle this will determine the fortunes of the City and its residents for years to come.  

11 a.m. - correction: In the first posting the story read Shergill also urged Council Members Steve Detrick and Pat Hume to reach out to diverse communities, it was changed to reach out to less diverse and welcoming communities...


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