Renee Saucedo: Confronting white supremacy in Humboldt

I join the rest of the country in denouncing the racist violence in Charlottesville, Va. last weekend [Aug. 12]  and mourn the brutal killing of a young woman.

Those of us who live in Humboldt County may not feel overwhelmingly concerned about the public presence of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists. After all, in “liberal” California, hate groups are on the fringe and hardly ever come out in public.  Thank goodness we don’t live in other parts of the country where “real” racism exists, we may think.

As with other events, I view the recent racial violence in Charlottesville as an opportunity for us Californians to learn how we must continue to work on racial inequities and injustice in our own back yard.

We may not host significant white supremacy organizations (although I’ve heard that places like Redding have a pretty large group of Klan members), but we still have “white supremacy.”

“White supremacy” does not only look like neo-Nazis and Klansmen publicly spewing hatred, as is what happened in Charlottesville.  It does not only consist of individuals expressing their prejudice through racist epithets or behavior.

“White supremacy” is a system of racial oppression wherein the dominant group is in the position of social, historical, and institutional power to back its prejudice with policies and procedures that infuse it throughout the entire society.

The system of racial oppression spans history and is taken for granted by most people, particularly by those whom the racial oppression benefits, those with the most racial privilege.

The structure of “white supremacy” causes imbalanced and inequitable results in almost all aspects of life, from success in school and employment to access to health and housing. Data across the board supports this conclusion.  For example, the history in our region of Native American genocide and oppression led to structures which cause anti-Native behavior in the schools and economic imbalances even today.

So how do we tackle “white supremacy” in our region?  A good first step would be to talk about it across racial lines, bring it to light, and understand what it looks like here so that we may turn it around.

My experience in Humboldt has been that many are afraid to even talk about “white supremacy” as a structural or systemic phenomena, because they only know it to be individual acts of racial hatred.  Moreover, they fear that they will be personally blamed for today’s inequities.

We must have the courage to explore what is happening systemically in order to address current inequities. The “white supremacy” we experience in Humboldt County may not seem as ugly as the white supremacy showing its face in Charlottesville right now. But it is as dangerous and damaging to people’s lives. I call on us to face it head on.

Renee Saucedo is a member of the  Steering Committee for Centro del Pueblo. She lives in Eureka.


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