McKinleyville agrees to discuss racism

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – After a lengthy public hearing, the McKinleyville advisory committee voted unanimously tonight, July 26 to discuss the issue of racism at an upcoming meeting.

Seven committee members, all of them white and all but one of them male, made the decision after listening to testimony from members of the public, who told the committee that racism is an issue that must be addressed in McKinleyville,

About 50 people – a large turnout by McKinleyville standards – were in attendance at the Middle School Conference Center, and none of them spoke out against the committee discussing racism. Those who testified supported the discussion.

It's worth noting that the committee was not debating racism, which wasn't on the agenda. It was debating whether the issue of racism should be placed on a future agenda.

Committee member Craig Tucker had tried to get the issue of racism placed on the May 31 agenda. However, he was thwarted by committee Chair Ben Shepherd, who said the topic was outside the committee’s purview.

At the May 31 meeting, the committee reverted to a rule that it had passed in February, which allows an item to be placed on a future agenda if the item is supported by two committee members despite the chair's objection. Committee member Kevin Dreyer backed Tucker’s request, thereby allowing the committee to override Shepherd's judgement.

However, according to Shepherd, Dreyer said he did so with the caveat that the issue of racism fell under the committee’s purview as outlined by rules approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Shepherd interpreted the committee  rules as not allowing the issue of racism to be discussed. (Click here to read an article in this week’s Mad River Union which includes those rules.)

At tonight’s meeting, members of the public pointed out that those rules allow the committee to discuss public safety issues affecting McKinleyville. Racism, they said, is clearly a public safety issue.

Some American Indians, as well as educators who work with black students, testified that racism is a real issue in McKinleyville. They said they have experienced acts of racism and racist language. They urged the committee to address the issue.

The committee ultimately decided to discuss the issue at its next meeting, tentatively scheduled for the end of August. The committee will consult with the Humboldt Area Foundation and the county’s Human Rights Commission as it works towards creating a community forum on racism.

See next week's Mad River Union for a more detailed report.


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