Stories and Recommendations from 12.08.2012 Listening Session

On Saturday, December 8, OC Human Relations Commission, along with Christ Our Redeemer AME Church, West Coast Christian Tabernacle, New Spirit Baptist Church, OC NAACP, Dr. Thomas Parham, and the Thurgood Marshall Bar Association invited African-American community members to share their stories, challenges, and celebrations of living in Orange County. The “Listening Session” was prompted by the experiences of an African-American family who were targeted by hate in Yorba Linda.

A summary of the December 8, 2012 Session follows:

PARTICIPANTS
Commissioners: Doug Wooley, Ken Inouye, Carol Turpen, Dave Maggard, Tim Kowal, Carol Turpen
Board Members: Susan Reese, Frank Marmolejo, Jim McQueen, Carol Turpen
OC Human Relations Staff: Rusty Kennedy, Alison Edwards, Barbara Hunt, James Armendaris, Kathy Shimizu, Juan Villavicencio, Eric Lam, Joyce Sanchez
Partners: Reverend Mark Whitlock, COR, Reverend Kenneth Curry Jr., Friendship Baptist, Reverend Ivan Pitts, Second Baptist, and Dr. Thomas Parham, 100 Black Men, NAACP, Irvine Police Dept, OC Sheriff Dept. plus about 150 community members.

ISSUES SUMMARY
1. Racial Profiling by Law enforcement stopping African Americans with no valid reason.
2. Harassment at School where African American children are called names and not accepted by peers because of their skin color. Teachers treating them differently than white students.
3. Work Place Discrimination African Americans are not hired because of their skin color or are terminated without a valid reason.
4. Neighborhood Harassment African Americans not being accepted in certain neighborhoods or chased away.
5. Unequal Customer Treatment, service is very poor for African Americans.
6. Ignorance regarding African American culture.

EXAMPLES OF STORIES:
Law Enforcement Harassment
I moved from LA area near Pomona to Irvine and thought I’d be safer here. Yes, it’s safer, but I’m always on the defensive, justifying my existence usually with the police.

African American and Latino Students stopped by police
A high school teacher in San Bernardino County with large African American and Latino student population; Noticed her male students were constantly stopped by policemen and asked, “Is this your car, are you sure you didn’t steal it?

Only the African American boy gets a ticket
One of the participant’s children an African American boy in middle school, was riding his bike with his white friends in Huntington Beach. Her boy was wearing a helmet but it was not fastened properly. His friends were not wearing helmets. A police officer stopped her boy and gave him a ticket in full view of the other children without helmets. She being, “outspoken” went to the chief of police had the ticket withdrawn. The police were not very receptive to her until she mentioned the words “NAACP” and “Christ Our Redeemer church.”

High school boy is harassed based on perceived sexual orientation
When they complained about their son being “t-bagged” by other students, staff allowed the problem to escalate to further harassment- drawing penises and writing homosexual innuendoes on their son’s backpack. Complaints were made 1st at the coaching level and then taken up to the school administrator level. While the child who damaged their son’s backpack was suspended for 1 day, the end result for them was that their son lost his playing time on the team and was t-bagged again, this time on videotape.

Class room seating arrangement is based on ethnicity of children
My daughter’s fifth grade class setting arrangement was all whites in the front, Asians second row, Arabic, Hispanic and then two black kids in the corner which included my daughter

School fails to address N-word tagging
My daughter’s band was tagged with the word Nigger the school did not take action.

African American feels alienated in OC
It hurts to be black in Orange County. We’ve lived in Orange County since 2004, we moved here so my son would have a good education.

Children called racial slurs in neighborhood
Mychildren have been called “brown boys” and the N-word around the neighborhood.

African American customer is not served
At Nordstrom a store representative was passing out perfume samples she gave a sample to the person in front of me and to the person in back of me but didn’t give a sample to me. I thought that was weird and I turned around and passed again; once again she gave a sample to the person behind me but not to me, I asked her, what was the problem?, she acted like she didn’t know what I was talking about I told her we black people also buy perfume and asked for the store manager and reported the incident.

Store representative follows African American customer
Whenever my friends and I go into a department store, at South Coast Plaza, Fashion Island, high end stores, we are followed in the store and shadowed the whole time as though we’re going to steal something. (reported by an African-American woman in her 30’s)

Sixth grade boy is harassed
A sixth grade African American boy is continuously harassed and bullied. He has gotten into trouble for defending himself and even has had to transfer schools. He is always looking for other kids similar to him to feel protected. When will I study if I am busy defending myself in school.

Unfairness in the work place
I was passed over in employment opportunities three times even when I met or exceeded the requirements. That was in corporate law. I now have my own practice and couldn’t be myself in the previous environment because I am Black.

African Americans are the target once again
There was actually some reprieve for the Black community when the focus shifted to Muslims after 9/11 but now it is swinging back to targeting Blacks.

Mission Viejo resident called racial slur
Use to jog very early, cars would pass her and people would shout Nigger and throw hard gum at her. She now jogs when there are more people around for safety but feels she should have the freedom to jog whenever she wants.

People don’t ask they assume
A Black male, has had keys thrown to him to park a car when standing in front of a restaurant. His friends might have just thrown them in the bushes out of irritation, but he handled it differently so as not to exacerbate the problem.

RECOMMENDATIONS (BRAINSTORMED)
1. Use the media to build awareness in the county about discrimination and teach tolerance.
2. Listening Sessions/Dialogues with other cultures to eliminate presumptions and educate regarding African American Culture.
3. Cultural awareness and interactive trainings for Police
4. The police reach out to the African American community by being a neighborhood presence- stopping in businesses (such as barbershops) to get to know people.
5. The public to anonymously report police officers when they are mistreated.
6. Educate school administrators, teachers, and students on culture sensitivity.
7. A place for those who suspect racism to report so an investigation will be done.
8. Introduction to neighbors in order to educate and eliminate presumptions.
9. Community resources available to those who are feeling targeted.
10. Educate African Americans on how to interact with the police.
11. Public officials to address racist incidents in Orange County.
12. Government to create policies that prevent and punish racism.
13. Proactive rather than reactive efforts.