Culture, Education, Hairstyles and the Diocese of San Diego

Jan 17, 2020

A 16-year-old young man was suspended a week ago from Mater Dei High School because of his hairstyle.  While that suspension has been rescinded, it never should have been allowed to happen at all. Diocese spokesman Kevin Eckery said that “the matter has been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction;” we are here to tell Mr Eckery that the matter most certainly has not been resolved to our satisfaction.

The Diocese of San Diego is a private institution and thus Mater Dei High School is allowed to make its own rules within certain limits.  Religious organizations are furthermore given latitude by our government on issues of faith and conscience. This latitude is not extend to illegal discrimination, nor is hairstyle a matter touched on by the Catholic faith.

Hairstyle may seem like a small matter at first glance to the lily-white and all-male leadership of the Diocese of San Diego.  What they may not recognize is the cultural importance of hairstyle. While Catholicism is mum on the issue, sects of Islam, Judaism and even Christanity regulate hairstyle.  Furthermore, African-Americans, sadly remaining suffering as we do from so much discrimination, use our hairstyles as a way to remain in touch with our long cultural heritage.

We therefore believe that the Mater Dei High School’s action consists of illegal discrimination based on race, and is not a protected exercise of their religion.  We might have expected the Diocese of San Diego, whose all-male leaders wear dresses, to have a little more flexibility and understanding toward long-standing cultural norms.  We also might have expected the Diocese of San Diego, given certain practices in their own culture that have come to light in recent years, to keep its distance from the heads and bodies of young men in its care.  

We demand the Diocese of San Diego to do better, and we stand ready to assist any efforts they make to train themselves and their employees in the African-American experience, explicit/implicit bias, and cultural sensitivity.  We are celebrating a century of standing sentry over the civil rights of San Diego residents, and we are well-equipped to help rectify this matter.

Francine Maxwell, First Vice President and Acting President
NAACP San Diego Branch

Dr Weber Deserves Better

Dec 30, 2019

We heartily agree that Dr Weber deserves the honor of being the Union-Tribune’s San Diegan of 2019.  She continues to deliver on legislation that helps all Californians, and advances the cause of racial equality.  AB-392 is only the latest such bill; 2019 also saw the first reports from the SDPD from AB-953, Dr Weber’s Racial Identity and Profiling Act.  We are very proud to call Dr Weber a life member of the NAACP San Diego Branch.

The Union Tribune is highly complimentary of AB-392 and the process of negotiation and passage, which is gratifying. Sadly, if unsurprisingly, the article falls short in other ways.

We find it insulting that, unlike past honorees, Dr Weber’s photo was not used, and instead she is represented by a cartoon.  African-Americans are not cartoons, they are real people. Individual U-T reporters seem to understand this (look at Don Boomer and Eduardo Contreras’ wonderful photos of Shelby Jacobs and Robert L. Moore in Pam Kragen’s article.)  Sadly, the Editorial Board made a different choice.

To add insult to injury, the cartoonist chosen was Steve Breen, who has a very unsettling record when it comes to African-Americans.  We have not forgotten his equating James Baldwin and Toni Morrison with Jussie Smollett, for example.

Had the cartoon been the only insensitivity, we might have let it pass.  Sadly, the text is lacking as well. Much is made of Dr Weber’s ability to get AB-392 passed, but there is almost no acknowledgement (save in the otherwise-problematic cartoon) of the reason AB-392 is so desperately needed by San Diegans.  Black and brown people are still so much more likely to lose their lives by police violence; that’s the driving force behind AB-392 and AB-953. Does the U-T admit this? No.

In fact, rather than point to the recent evidence that the SDPD is in need of fundamental reform, such as might someday be delivered by Dr Weber’s work, the U-T chooses to pander to the deniers of racism by referring to shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, 5 years ago, as “justified.”  We wonder — is the U-T editorial board deliberately trying to have it both ways; to honor Dr Weber on the surface while signaling underneath to the racists? Or is the problem one of implicit bias on the part of the Board?

In summary, we are glad to see Dr Weber’s resourcefulness and political skill honored, but greatly saddened to see the causes slighted to which she has devoted her life: the full personhood, safety, and well-being of the most vulnerable San Diegans.

Sincerely,

Francine Maxwell, First Vice President
NAACP San Diego Branch

The Mayor and the San Diego Police Department Fail to Address CAB Concerns

Dec 16, 2019

We read with interest the November 18th response from Jeffrey Jordon to the April 22nd recommendations from the Citizen’s Advisory Board on Police/Community Relations.  We understand that the SDPD will be explaining its response at the December 16th meeting of the CAB.  

There is a lot that we don’t like in the SDPD’s response.  We might, for example, have complained about it taking SEVEN MONTHS to respond at all.  We might have complained that the response was sent just before the Thanksgiving Holiday, when it was most likely to go ignored.  It’s possible that we would have complained about the quote that was put in Shelley Zimmerman’s mouth, which was inaccurate and does not convey the evasive words she actually used.  

We might have asked for a different response than “inapplicable” to the request to reduce staffing of the Gang Suppression Unit.  We might have remarked at the Gang Suppression Unit being renamed the “Special Operations Unit” when it might more properly have been renamed the “Harassment of Black and Brown Youth and Adult Unit.”

We might have asked for a more meaningful response to calling for a moratorium on “pretext stops” (also known as “Driving-While-Black Stops”) than having you quote court cases that indicate the practice is legal, however counterproductive and oppressive it may be.

We might have been incredulous at the SDPD’s disingenuous inability to understand what a “Beat” system is.

We might, in fact, have gone on to comment and the second half of the response, which is as full of defensiveness, obstructionism and mendacity as the first half.

However, we see no need to refute the SDPD’s self-justification paragraph by paragraph and word by word.  Instead, we would like to point the Mayor, Chief Nisleit, and the TRUE author of the response, City Attorney Mara Elliot, to the recent report by Campaign Zero.

This report can be found at policescorecard.org/sandiego.  It is not a pretty thing, and we think it more proper to comment on it than on the latest accountability whitewash to issue from 1200 Third Avenue.  Here are some excerpts:

San Diego police were 44% more likely to search Latinx people and 133% more likely to search black people than white people during a routine traffic stop – especially for equipment violations.

Chief Nisleit, your “anti-bias” training is not working.

San Diego police and sheriff’s departments were more likely to search black and Latinx people during routine traffic stops, they were less likely to find contraband during these searches. This suggests both departments are over-searching people in general, with little to no public safety benefit, while engaging in biased policing towards communities of color in particular.

Chief Nisleit, your pretext stops are not contributing to public safety.

[B]lack people were 4.1x more likely than white people to be arrested by SDPD for drug possession, despite research showing black and white people use and sell drugs at similar rates. Both agencies made as many arrests for drug possession alone as they did for all Part 1 Violent and Property Crimes combined.

Excuse us; Chief Nisleit, your biased pretext stops are not contributing to public safety.

Chief Nisleit and the SDPD are justifiably proud of the reduction in San Diego of violent crimeand we admit to being gratified that San Diego is one of the safest large cities for most of the population.  We wonder, however, if those statistics need to be adjusted based on violent crime committee BY the SDPD in the normal course of their duties. For example:

San Diego police used force at a higher rate than 95% of California law enforcement agencies in our analysis.

The San Diego Police Department is a source of violence in our City.

Between 2016-2018, San Diego Police Department and the San Diego Sheriff’s Department were more likely to use force against black people, even after controlling for arrest rates. … San Diego police were 172% more likely to use force against people perceived to have mental disabilities during a stop …. This suggests there are serious issues regarding [the SDPD’s] interactions with black people and people with disabilities.

Naturally, the violence Chief Nisleit oversees is worse against black folks and disabled folks.

On average, when SDPD uses force against black people they use a level of force 1.3x more severe than when using force against white people. 

Chief Nisleit, not only is violence more frequent, but it is also more severe when African-Americans are involved.

Now, here is something else we agree with:

When civilians came forward to report police misconduct, it rarely led to accountability in San Diego. Of 226 civilian complaints of San Diego Police Department conduct in 2016 and 2017, only 11% were ruled in favor of civilians. Moreover, complaints alleging the most serious misconduct were never sustained. For example, of 21 civilian complaints of police discrimination, 75 use of force complaints and 2 complaints alleging criminal misconduct, none of these complaints were sustained.

Everyone except the Mayor and the SDPD have been calling for the CRB to be replaced with a truly independent citizen body pushing for accountability.  Of course, the SDPD sees the CRB with the same rose-colored glasses through which it views its own conduct.

The Campaign Zero report, for which we are very grateful, goes on to make some common-sense recommendations.  By and large, we concur with their recommendations, as well as the recommendations made by the CAB. While we will be vocal about suggesting solutions at the right time, there really is no point in recommending medicine to a department that sees itself as healthy.

We call on Mayor Faulconer and Chief Nisleit, not to mention City Attorney Mara Elliott, to finally admit that the SDPD is in need of a fundamental new direction and fundamental reform.  Once they admit they have a problem, we stand ready to collaborate with them in devising and implementing solutions, as well as convincing our community to give the SDPD another chance, once the reforms are in place.

We doubt that we will get there with the current administration.  We hope this coming election brings someone into the Mayor’s office who actually cares about people who are not wealthy and white.  We look forward to a productive relationship with such a Mayor.

Francine Maxwell, First Vice President
NAACP San Diego Branch

County Board Finds a Way on Satellite Offices

2019-11-05

Founded in 1919 after a visit by renowned author, activist and NAACP co-founder, W.E.B. DuBois, the NAACP San Diego Branch is celebrating a century of standing sentry over the civil rights of the people of San Diego.

The NAACP San Diego Branch last week voiced our displeasure that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors was unable to protect and strengthen the voting rights of all eligible San Diegans.  The board fell one vote short of the required four “yes” votes, with Supervisors Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar in opposition against the recommendation of the County’s Chief Administrative Officer and County Legal Counsel.

We are gratified that last night, at a special meeting, the Board found a way to proceed with the satellite offices.

We wish we could report that Desmond and Gaspar had a change of heart, and became supporters of voting rights.  Sadly, we cannot. Ms Gaspar even had the lack of irony to say that she felt her vote (to deprive other voters of their rights) was being disrespected.

We applaud Supervisors Fletcher, Cox and Jacob for thwarting what look to be deliberate voter-suppression tactics on the part of Desmond and Gaspar.  We are glad Fletcher, Cox and Jacob share our belief that democracy works best when the most people participate.

Sincerely,

Kamaal Martin, Chair, NAACP San Diego Branch Political Action Committee
Francine Maxwell, First Vice President, NAACP San Diego Branch

P.O. Box 152086 · San Diego, CA 92195-2086
(619) 263-7823 Phone • (619) 431-1633 Text

Disappointed With “No” Votes on Satellite Offices

2019-10-30

The NAACP San Diego Branch would like to voice its displeasure that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors were unwilling to protect and strengthen the voting rights of all eligible San Diegans.  The board fell one vote short of the required four “yes” votes, with Supervisors Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar in opposition against the recommendation of the County’s Chief Administrative Officer and County Legal Counsel.  Once again, they’ve proven themselves to be roadblocks to a free and inclusive political process that respects the rights of all.

County Registrar Michael Vu said “if supervisors didn’t move forward with opening satellite offices, it could result in longer lines.  In addition, the county might be at risk for not certifying the next election within 30 days.” That would lead to the county seeking an extension through the courts, Vu added.

Chief Administrative Officer, Helen Robbins-Meyer said “We don’t have the opportunity to say…we’re not going to do it.” Ms. Robbins-Meyer went on to say that opening these satellite stations would be critical and urged the Board to vote to approve them.  

A state law passed earlier this year made the March 2020 race the first election where people on election day will be able to register to vote or change their party identification at any polling location.  The plan would have created four satellite locations which would have more technology and access to voter registration files, so the county would need fewer provisional ballots, all while providing several new locations for residents hoping to register and vote on the same day.

The NAACP San Diego applauds the three “yes” votes from Supervisors Fletcher, Cox and Jacob, who share our belief that democracy works best when the most people participate.

Sincerely,

Kamaal Martin, Chair, NAACP San Diego Branch Political Action Committee
Clovis Honoré, President, NAACP San Diego Branch