OC Human Relations on Thursday will hold a public forum on a draft report written in the wake of “listening sessions” with the African American community.


SANTA ANA – OC Human Relations will hold a public forum on Thursday focusing on the results of three “listening sessions” held to hear the concerns of African American residents of Orange County.

The listening sessions were set up in the wake of reports from a Yorba Linda family that experienced a series of hate crimes and moved out of their home last year. Vandals broke their windows, slashed their car tires and fired acid pellets at their garage door; and one son was the victim of racial slurs yelled at him, the family reported.

The OC Human Relations Commission, in a November letter to the family after it moved to Corona, expressed “our sincere regrets that you faced such hostility.”
“Your story moved and galvanized the commission and we are taking action to do special outreach to the African American community … to listen to some of these stories and share that reality with the whole county,” the letter said.

To protect the privacy of the family, its name has been omitted from a copy of the letter made public by OC Human Relations.

The resulting conversations took place at Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine, Friendship Baptist Church in Yorba Linda and Second Baptist Church in Santa Ana to discover whether others had similar stories of bigotry to tell.

“It’s really easy to live in Orange County and to feel like this is one of the most wonderful places to live – the kids are safe, there are wonderful educational opportunities, communities are filled with great parks, and there are opportunities for jobs, for work and education,” said Rusty Kennedy, CEO and executive director of OC Human Relations. “But meeting people face to face and having them share their experiences was eye opening, even for the (Human Relations) commissioners, who are more attuned to stories of discrimination and bigotry. They came away thinking and feeling that this is important for them to do something about.”

Participants in the conversations reported harassment by police, prejudice in schools, and workplace and housing discrimination. Some 300 people took park.

According to a draft report prepared from results of the sessions:
•A middle-aged lawyer was stopped by an officer as he was into a shopping center, without being given a valid reason, the report said. The officer was rude and condescending. The lawyer complained and later got an apology from the mayor.
•A high school student, according to her aunt, was told by a group of white students that for Halloween, they were going to dress as KKK members and “lynch the Negroes.”
•An Orange County company raised a Confederate flag. A woman called to say she was offended, and the CEO, after saying he was shocked at the reaction, agreed to take it down.

A study prepared from the sessions found that nearly 30 percent of 144 participants reported being racially profiled by police in Orange County, while 21 percent of African American youth in the study reported experiencing harassment and racial profiling. About 2 percent of Orange County residents are African American.

The draft report lays out a series of recommended next steps. Those include distributing the findings to cities and school districts across the county, making hate-crime presentations to organizations requesting them and offering a variety of training sessions and forums to neighborhood leaders, parent groups and law enforcement.

OC Human Relations, a non-profit, contracts with the county to provide a variety of programs and services.

If you go

The 11-member OC Human Relations Commission, with members appointed by the board of supervisors and Orange County League of Cities, will meet on Thursday and provide the public an opportunity to provide feedback on the draft.

The session will begin at 7 p.m. at 1300 S Grand Ave., Bldg B, Conference Room A/B, in Santa Ana.

For more information: 714-567-7470. You can see the report and learn more at https://www.ochumanrelations.org/uncategorized/public-forum-listening-session-report/

Contact the writer: 714-796-6999 or rgonzales@ocregister.com