Commentary: Something Pretty Extraordinary Happened This Week

In November 2018, three women of color were elected to lead Davis: Cindy Pickett (left), Gloria Partida (center) and Melissa Moreno (right)

It seems that everything comes together—in two weeks it will make the 14th anniversary of my founding of the Davis Vanguard.  The impetus for that foundation was the June 2006 shutdown of the Davis Human Relations Commission after my wife and other commissioners pushed for a civilian police review board.

That structure of that board was very similar to the board that exists today—of which my wife is a member, and Dillan Horton, a young Black citizen of Davis who is running for city council, is chair.

This week, we are reminded that we still have work to do on racial progress.  The city finally released traffic stop data which showed that Blacks and Hispanics—but in particular, Blacks—are stopped an extraordinarily high and disproportionate amount of time compared to their percentage of the population.

For years, dating back to the start of my involvement in the community in 2006, I have heard from Black people, in particular, that they are stopped disproportionately and most often not ticketed—which suggests to them and to me that police are pulling them over on a pretext.

The data largely bears this out.  Sixty-eight percent of the time Blacks are stopped for supposed moving violations, and yet they only receive citations around 18.6 percent of the time.  That means just over one in every four times did the officer deem the stop to be worthy of a ticket.

I have met Black students who told me that they have been pulled over so often—never receiving a ticket—that they stopped driving into town.

The data we now have access to suggests we still have work to do.

But for the most part, those in this community who are concerned about issues of diversity should take heart in what happened with the school board appointment.

The appointment itself of Joy Klineberg was made just two weeks ago yesterday.  It seems a lot has happened since them.

In normal times, the appointment of Klineberg, who was appointed to the temporary position just under two years ago, would have hardly registered on the Davis Richter scale.

She profiles to the type of person who not only seems like a safe choice for appointment, but also the type who gets elected by the voters to serve on the board.

Not only had she served previously, but she had served on the site council and as PTA president at her schools.

Appointments have largely been non-controversial.

In 2010, the Davis City Council filled a vacancy left open by Don Saylor being elected to the Board of Supervisors.  The city council selected Dan Wolk.  For Dan Wolk, at the time in his early 30s, his chief asset was the fact that his mother had served as mayor, supervisor, assemblymember and state senator.

At that time, appointing a white man who was young and his chief asset was his last name, elicited no blowback from the community.  In fact, in 2012, Dan Wolk ran for city council and won every single precinct, to become mayor from 2014 to 2016.

Contrast that with the appointment of Joy Klineberg, by all accounts heavily qualified.  In fact, you could argue that she was perhaps the most qualified applicant, given that she had already served on the board, and given that the school board is about take on the very thorny issue of school reopening—perhaps mitigated now that the state and county are pulling back on re-opening.  And the biggest long term challenge will be the budget, in the wake of what could become a double-dip recession.

But the times have changed.  The community, in fact, was already organizing and pushing for the board to appoint a woman of color.

It is hard to know where the future may take us.  But it could well be that the May 25, 2020, death of George Floyd will serve as every bit of a launching point as the 1955 killing of Emmett Till.

We are still watching to see what comes of this.  We have already seen big impacts, however, from mass protests that swept the nation.  We have seen places like Minneapolis, which was at the epicenter of the protests with the death of Floyd, and Berkeley take huge steps to defund the police.

We have seen the state of Mississippi finally remove the confederate flag from their state flag.  We have seen the Washington Redskins say that they will change their name.

In the 1950s and 1960s, the civil rights movement changed the course of history and finally gained Blacks—who had suffered 250 years of slavery, then 100 years of second class citizenry, devoid of basic rights—the right to vote, the desegregation of public accommodations and schools, and the end of Jim Crow.

But when the civil rights movement occurred in the 1960s, most people shut off the movie when Martin Luther King delivers his great speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and when Lyndon Johnson in 1964 signed the Civil Rights Act and, following Selma in 1965, signed the Voting Rights Act.

But Martin Luther King did not stop there.  In 1968, he was organizing the sanitation workers in Memphis—the poorest and most vulnerable people.  He was fighting against de facto segregation in Chicago and the north.

Even before he was assassinated, he was losing ground.  The issues were no longer as black and white, good and evil.  It was easy to rail against Sheriff Jim Clark, Police Commissioner Bull Connor, Governor George Wallace.  Much harder to rail against the forces of inequality and systemic racism.

The movement frayed as calls for Black Power turned off white voters.  Riots and unrest, rising crime rates, led to a white backlash.  Civil rights stalled as the nation turned more conservative, shutting off the Supreme Court as an avenue for racial progress.

Across the nation now, protests against police brutality and systemic racism, the tearing down of age-old symbols of oppression, and the push for criminal justice reform have led us to a potential new moment.

The question remains—what will that look like locally?

Maybe we caught just a glimpse this week of how powerful that move will be.

Cindy Pickett, the outgoing board member, on the night of the vote was outraged at the appointment and called it “appalling.”

At that time, she noted that they had a provision under the law to put the appointment on the ballot, and it required about 1.5 percent of the registered voters in order to qualify.  That came to about 658 signatures, based on the last general election.

Could they do it?  In a pandemic?

Perhaps as many as 100 people came together.  Most of them had never gathered a single signature in their lives.

They needed 658 signatures.  They got 1700.  In four days.

It took less than two weeks to overturn the decision of the school board.

If this group stays together it has the capacity to truly change the political landscape of Davis.  And if what we are seeing in Davis is any indication, we are about to see something extraordinary sweep this nation.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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46 Comments

  1. Keith Olsen

     Joy Klineberg – by all accounts – heavily qualified.  In fact, you could argue that she was perhaps the most qualified given that she had already served on the board

     Joy Klineberg was the most qualified and she already had experience in the position.  Being that she’s also a female her only problem was the color of her skin.  If that’s not racism….

    1. David Greenwald

      The problem that you are doing is falling back to the age old justification for locking people of color out of jobs and places of advancement, by arguing that those seeking to diversify a given body are engaging in racism by seeking to gain more representation of people of color.

      And you are failing to recognize that part of the reason why she is on paper heavily qualified is in part embedded in the very regime of systemic white privilege people are attempting to undo.

    2. Eric Gelber

      I agree with Nora Oldwin on the importance of defining terms. One such term is “qualified,” or what it means to be “most qualified.” If the term is defined to include consideration of a candidate’s ability to represent an under-represented community of interest, then selecting a highly qualified person of color over an otherwise highly qualified individual who is white is not racism. Being white is not a disqualifying factor; but neither is being non-white an irrelevant factor to be taken into consideration.

      1. Bill Marshall

        If the term is defined to include consideration of a candidate’s ability to represent an under-represented community of interest,

        Two questions:

        Can a person be able to effectively represent an under-represented community of interest, if they are not a “member” of that community?

        Will a person effectively represent an under-represented community of interest, if they are a “member” of that community?

        I believe the answers are “yes” to the first, and “maybe” to the latter.

        I am suspicious as to someone whose answers are “no” to the first, and “yes” to the second…

         

        1. Eric Gelber

          I agree with your answer to question one. On a personal note, I believe I was a damn effective advocate for people with disabilities in my career even though I wasn’t a person with a disability. On the other hand, being a person with a disability was always a highly desirable qualification and, for some positions—e.g., peer advocate—a minimum qualification in the organization I worked for for 26 years.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Tia… note that the first question is “ability to”, the second one was “will they”… big diff…

          Had I used “will they” in both, I too would have answered “maybe”

          I respect Eric’s answer…

  2. Nora Oldwin

    It’s incumbent on us to define terms before we can really have a conversation of any depth, here or elsewhere. Can we agree to accept some definitions of key concepts before we go further when we discuss race? If not, we go round and round and never advance.  

    I offer a definition of “racism” which distinguishes that term from “bias” and “prejudice”(with thanks to Robin Diangelo for her work in this area). In other words, I think we can all agree that every human is biased; and, every person also harbors certain prejudices- no matter where and when a person is born. It’s just part of the human experience. But this is to be distinguished from institutional backing of a particular prejudice: when the power of institutions backs a prejudice, that’s a different matter from mere prejudice.

    For an example, to use something I understand — which is gender — (having experienced gender discrimination in the work place and elsewhere — details if you want them such as pay scale and treatment in courtrooms when I practiced there)- I look at the institutions preventing me and women in general from being on equal footing with men. How? Well, [white] women did not get the right to vote until 1920 – there was a societal concept of women as lesser human beings, lesser than males. Women had to get ‘permission’ from the men — who made laws — to be able to vote. Women couldn’t vote without prevailing upon the power structures in government which adhered to the prejudice that women were “lesser”. That is the power of institutions. Women are still paid less than men for doing the same work.

    Now apply that template to race prejudice. The power of government — the Jim Crow laws, the red-lining, all the laws and ordinances that back the prejudice that Black people are somehow “lesser” — that is the definition of “racism” that I think will serve a conversation going forward. With that in mind, we can see in a different manner the argument put forth that rejecting the appointment of a white person to a position of power in favor of appointing a person of color or a Black person is not  “racism”. It’s prejudice.

    As in the gender context, Blacks cannot give themselves respite from the inequality in prosecuting drug violations, for example. That has to be put to the powers that be who make the laws, and those institutions come from a long line of race prejudice starting with slavery, then Jim Crow, and on and on. SO: it is productive to distinguish prejudice from racism, to my way of thinking … we get out of the presumption that racism is the same as prejudice. I hope this is helpful … Really, I do.

    1. Bill Marshall

      I’d add, not all prejudices or biases are based on “race”… many have no prejudices as to “race”, but have them on other criteria…

  3. Ron Oertel

    There are different definitions of racism, via online sources.  I’m not sure what the point is, in suggesting that only “white” people engage in that. Some of this seems to be political, in nature.

    Probably “systemic” racism, as well.

    What happens when an institution is dominated by non-whites?  I believe there are examples of that, probably including those in decision-making positions.

    Can there (then) be “systemic racism” based upon that?

    Same thing regarding gender – not necessarily male.

    1. Ron Oertel

      Here’s a question I might have:

      Say the school board ultimately “over-represents” particular skin colors that are not white.  Leaving aside, for a moment, the fact that “people of color” don’t always have the same color.

      Would the next appointment then purposefully seek out someone who is “white”?

       

      1. Keith Olsen

        Would the next appointment then purposefully seek out someone who is “white”?

        Maybe in an alternate universe, not in Davis.  I’m sure that would labeled as racist.

    2. Richard McCann

      What happens when an institution is dominated by non-whites?

      Given that every governance or private institution in the world is answerable to a small collection of institutions controlled by either Americans or Europeans, its hard to imagine ANY institution that is not dominated by whites in some manner. All private financial institutions that operate on a global scale, plus the IMF and World Bank, plus the American federal government and the EU governments are all white dominated. All developing world governments must answer to at least one of those institutions in a very significant way. And that rolls down the local level. In the U.S. city governments are subservient to state governments that are all white dominated (Hawaii might be the exception)–just ask Flint or Detroit.

      1. Ron Oertel

         its hard to imagine ANY institution that is not dominated by whites in some manner. All private financial institutions that operate on a global scale, plus the IMF and World Bank, plus the American federal government and the EU governments are all white dominated.

        How about ANY institution in that up-and-coming leader, China? Or perhaps in the not-to-distant future, India?

        Also, have you ever visited Washington DC, and the federal agencies headquartered there?

        How about the San Francisco board of supervisors (I’m guessing)? Or, their Mayor?

        Or, some school districts (possibly including the one in Davis, in near future), or the DMV?  Post Office?  For anyone with a sense of humor, regarding the topic of “systemic racism”:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS4DnwrXThU

         

         

      2. Ron Oertel

         are all white dominated.

        Actually, isn’t this also often claimed regarding Jewish people?  (Seems like the jury is out, regarding the “whiteness” of that group.)

        And Asians (as a group) might be doing “better” than white people, in places like San Francisco. (Not sure about that, though.) But certainly, a lot of them are property owners.

        1. Alan Miller

           > are all white dominated.

          Actually, isn’t this also often claimed regarding Jewish people?

          It’s teetering awful close to the rhetoric used by Jew Haters (some call these Anti-Semites, which is kind of like calling organized-child-rape-prostitution ‘human trafficking’) and Nazis.  I spoke yesterday about the danger of dismissing envy-based racism, as many progressives do, based on a ranking of dominance structure.

           

  4. Ron Oertel

    From article above:

    Contrast that with the appointment of Joy Klineberg – by all accounts – heavily qualified.  In fact, you could argue that she was perhaps the most qualified given that she had already served on the board . . .

    Cindy Pickett, the outgoing board member, the night of the vote was outraged at the appointment and called it “appalling.”

      1. David Greenwald

        My comment actually – “you could argue that…” not that she was because the whole point of this is that the totality of the circumstances were not taken into account in the selection.

        1. Ron Oertel

          The “totality” being consideration of skin color as a factor in the selection.

          As a side note, there’s no such thing as “equally qualified” candidates.  There’s always different skill sets between people – even if they have the same education and experience (and the same skin color, for that matter).

          Regardless, I suspect that any of the candidates would do a fine job.

          I don’t, however, think that the choice was “appalling”.

          I find it at least somewhat appalling that some want to make skin color a factor in such selections, and are apparently not embarrassed to say so.

           

           

          1. David Greenwald

            Totality being a consideration of issues of representation for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.

        2. Ron Oertel

          Totality being a consideration of issues of representation for disadvantaged and underrepresented groups.

          Pretty challenging to define that, especially in regard to a particular position.

          Regarding “under-represented”, how about this example?

          Say the school board ultimately “over-represents” particular skin colors that are not white.  Leaving aside, for a moment, the fact that “people of color” don’t always have the same color.
          Would the next appointment then purposefully seek out someone who is “white”?

           

           
          Ignore

          1. David Greenwald

            You don’t need to define it. That’s why having elections is the best option – that way voters can determine who is most qualified by whatever criteria they determine relevant.

        3. Ron Oertel

          (One could also probably substitute “Asian” for white, in the example above.  Depending upon which sub-group of Asians we’re referring to.)

        4. Ron Oertel

          You don’t need to define it. That’s why having elections is the best option – that way voters can determine who is most qualified by whatever criteria they determine relevant.

          Voters (in general) are not usually “better” at making decisions based upon the criteria that Cindy and you prefer. Maybe in Davis they are, but not sure.

          But, I guess we’ll see.  Be sure to report which colors (and genders) win, so that we can know whether to celebrate or not.

          Maybe another photo like the one at the top of this article will help. In fact, I’d suggest that this be clarified before an election, for those not following that particular concern as closely.

      2. Tia Will

        Keith

        it’s certainly appalling that the most qualified person for the job was chosen.”

        You left out a key concept from David’s statement: “arguably”. Having held a position previously does not, IMO, automatically make one the most qualified to hold that position again. If that were true one would have to believe that all former mayors of Davis are more qualified than otherwise similarly qualified candidates regardless of the quality of their performance while in that position. I wonder how many would be willing to buy into that proposition,

        1. Bill Marshall

          I wonder how many would be willing to buy into that proposition

          Certainly, not I… have known too many people what have many years of experience, and those who have had one year of experience many times… big diff… gets to performance and quality thereof (which are also subjective, depending on the lenses folk wear)…

  5. Alan Miller

    The community in fact was already organizing and pushing for the board to appoint a woman of color.

    The community?   More accurately, some people in the community.

        1. Alan Miller

          DG does this frequently, gets called out on it, does it again.  Clearly, it does go without saying — it isn’t said. Were a part of the community to take a stand that did not fit in DG’s world view, wording that implied the whole community would not be used.

  6. Bill Marshall

    Regarding “under-represented”, how about this example?

    Say the school board ultimately “over-represents” particular skin colors that are not white.  Leaving aside, for a moment, the fact that “people of color” don’t always have the same color.
    Would the next appointment then purposefully seek out someone who is “white”?

    Ron… see the exchange between Eric, Tia and me…

    Gets to knowledge/understanding, openness, empathy… I’d have no problem with a board of all non-male, and/or all non-male, if they possessed knowledge, openness, empathy… those with the characteristics I cite could fully listen (not just ‘hear’) to, represent my unique interests/concerns… I’m not ‘fragile’… at least in that matter…

      1. Bill Marshall

        BTW… BIG hint for candidates looking for my vote…

        knowledge/understanding, openness, empathy, experience/track record

        If you can sell me on those, I don’t care if you are Black/White/Latinx/other, male/female, straight/LGBTQ++, religious or atheist, or even a Vulcan…

  7. Rick Entrikin

    First,  I would like to say that it was wonderful to see Nora Oldwin  joining all of us old, white guys (and Tia) today.  I’ve known and admired Nora for many years and always appreciate her thoughtful insights and comments.  Now, race aside, I believe the larger issue, certainly for long-term, systemic change,  is the process that the current DJUSD board members used to replace Cindy Pickett.  To use a popular word in this discussion, it was “appalling” to see them  appoint someone, indeed anyone, to a two-plus year term.  Even Bob Dunning and David agreed on that.  But something (haven’t yet considered a solution) needs to change to ensure that future Boards do not abuse their power, which is arguably what happened in this case.  Meanwhile, I hope we, as a community, will be able to select the most “qualified” person in the appropriate manner in November: by voting.

     

     

    1. David Greenwald

      I agree Rick – they should probably set a rule that an appointment should not go past the next available election.  That would at least make them have to overrule it at a future date.

      1. Alan Miller

        I agree.  And if that is what the new group were focusing on — process — I’d be fully on board.

        What DG said the other day about the “Moore Village Incident” was ‘would this have happened if the person were not a person of color’ ?  I do not think any of us could answer that definitively, and the divide as to what was more likely is likely colored by our political view.

        I ask the same question here.   The problem was declared to be the process.  But ‘would this (the petition) have happened if the person appointed were not white’ ?

        Again, I’m on board about fixing the flawed process.

        The truth is, the petitioners cannot lose in furthering their agenda with their strategy.  If the election results in a so-called ‘person of color’, they ‘win’; if the election results in a so-called ‘white’ person, they declare the Davis electorate ‘racially insensitive’, and again, they ‘win’.

        1. Rick Entrikin

          Alan, I think I actually agree with everything you wrote.  I personally think that there is too much emphasis on color and all sorts of other differences among people but, likely for fear of being labeled as old, white and conservative, I tried to focus on what caused the controversy (other than the all-male Board).

    2. Ron Oertel

       To use a popular word in this discussion, it was “appalling” to see them appoint someone, indeed anyone, to a two-plus year term. 

      It was not “appalling” if that was their standard procedure, before someone objected to the skin color of the resulting selectee.

       

       

      1. Rick Entrikin

        Ron, I often agree with you (albeit from afar), but now I have a sense of why people tend to jump on you.  I put a lot of thought into what I wrote and, specifically focused on two aspects of the Pickett replacement: process and length of the appointment.  AND I specifically stated “race aside.”  I have followed the DJUSD rather closely for decades and don’t recall any situation where anyone has been appointed for more than a few months at a time.  Please, slow down and read as carefully as others try to write.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Ron, I often agree with you (albeit from afar), but now I have a sense of why people tend to jump on you. 

          Everyone gets “jumped on”, here.  I don’t think I’ve been “jumped on”, regarding this issue.  (Only regarding growth and development issues.)

          I have followed the DJUSD rather closely for decades and don’t recall any situation where anyone has been appointed for more than a few months at a time.

          I thought that David provided an earlier example of that.

          Please, slow down and read as carefully as others try to write.

          The ONLY part that I didn’t agree with (regarding your post) is the use of the word “appalling” to describe the selection.  In fact, that might be viewed as an “insult” to those who made the selection.  (Nothing to do with me.)

          They either had a process, or they didn’t.  I have yet to see anyone provide any written policy or procedure regarding what that process is.  Maybe there is no formal process, and that’s part of the problem.

          I have no objections at all, regarding improvements to the process.  I do object (somewhat) to the underlying reason that it’s arising now.

          I wonder how many people never even vote for school board candidates (even if they participate in voting), because they don’t even know who they are (or what differences there are, between them).

           

           

           

        2. Ron Oertel

            Maybe there is no formal process, and that’s part of the problem.

          That’s often an audit finding (in general – not necessarily specific to this situation). Documented policies and procedures are one of the first things that are gathered, during an audit.

        3. Ron Oertel

          Everyone gets “jumped on”, here.  I don’t think I’ve been “jumped on”, regarding this issue.  (Only regarding growth and development issues.)

          Actually, that’s not quite true, though it’s ultimately related.

          I’ve probably received the “most” grief when suggesting that schools (and/or the district itself) be “right-sized”, or consolidated with other districts.  Also, when I expressed concern regarding continuing to favor the school district over the needs of the city, in regard to taxes.  (And finally, when I noted that the cost of supporting a bloated school district makes costs associated with housing more expensive.)

          That’s probably when I was at my “most popular”, on here. Though some shared my concerns.

          If ANY of these candidates share those concerns, please let me know. Perhaps I’ll walk a precinct for them, in support. And, I won’t even care what color or gender they are.

  8. Alan Miller

    I would have no problem with the school board or the city council having no white nor Jewish people, were it to ever turn out that way.  I believe I could be represented on city issues.  (It certainly couldn’t be any worse in that regard than it’s been over the last 40 years, ha ha).

    Same with national issues.  I am leaning towards supporting Bottoms for *President.  I like her style, her integrity, her boldness, her willingness to call out some even in the black community for ‘behaving badly’ and ‘hurting the cause’.  I just hope some very public mistakes recently don’t hold her back from being chosen.

    I’ll bet she’s got what it takes to take on the Vanguard comments section’s DG-declared ‘white buzzsaw’ without hesitation.

    *I say President rather than VP because I don’t think anyone is actually voting for Biden, nor do I think it’s likely he’s going to be competent for four, much less eight, years.  Bottoms seems like she’s got that “it factor” for Presidential material.

    Wait, what?  The olive-skinned Jewish buzzsaw declared support for a black woman for President?  Heads are exploding in the Vanguard downtown offices, necessitating a visit from a hazmat cleanup team.

  9. Ron Glick

    The title is in plain sight but as usual some are hung up on race. If you have ever worked on a petition drive you would know that collecting 1700 signatures in four days in a place the size of DJUSD is extraordinary. Doing so demonstrates widespread dissatisfaction with the decision that is being petitioned for redress. Doing so during this pandemic is even more astonishing.

    Assessing the motivation of the signers in a petition drive is much like trying to tease out why the electorate voted a certain way in an election. Was it one particular thing or was it many things?

    I don’t know, but for me it wasn’t race, although I found the race aspect disturbing.  I felt that there were too excellent candidates of other races, who were well qualified, and would have added voices to the board that need to be heard . That neither of these people were chosen was disappointing but it wasn’t the thing that motivated me to suit up in mask and gloves and go sign.

    For me it was a combination of factors that included the length of appointment, the arrogance of some of the actors involved in both this appointment and the previous one, and, the inability of the board to rise to this historical moment. Had it not been for certain insensitive comments made in another forum I wonder if the petition drive would have had the legs it did. Maybe it would have but without my blood boiling over those remarks I never would have been motivated enough to get off the couch.

  10. Rick Entrikin

    Beautiful, Ron; you really said it all.  Your paragraph below best summarizes my view on the situation.

    “I don’t know, but for me it wasn’t race, although I found the race aspect disturbing.  I felt that there were too (two) excellent candidates of other races, who were well qualified, and would have added voices to the board that need to be heard . That neither of these people were chosen was disappointing but it wasn’t the thing that motivated me to suit up in mask and gloves and go sign.”

     

     

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