Letter: Measure H – Civility and Equity in Campaigning

by Evan Cragin

As a Political Science student, I was overjoyed when I transferred to UC Davis, despite knowing I would be one of very few Black students. I identified with Davis’ political culture; its passion for youth involvement, environmental sustainability, and, above all, civil, informed discourse. Every campaign and local representative I have worked with has prioritized civility, social, and racial justice, which is why I was so appalled when Congressman Mike Thompson came to Davis only to be disrespected.

In a speech that covered gun violence, women’s rights, and the importance of voting, Congressman Thompson spoke about why voting is important. He noted his support for Measure H, but acknowledged that both Yes and No sides agree on most issues.

He was closing his speech on his colleague, the late Congressman John Lewis, who was nearly beaten to death fighting for voting rights, when it happened—a White No on H protester shouted “Okay, Boomer!”

The Congressman, and myself, were visibly surprised at this offensive and obscenely disrespectful retort, especially from a fellow Aggie.

Unfortunately, as someone working with the Yes on H team, this insensitivity is not new.

It is not a coincidence that the No on H side tells me I am uneducated and misinformed when I table at the Farmers Market, with whom is often the only other Black person. NJ Mvondo, Chair of the Human Relations and Yolo County Climate Action Commissions, and I, a UC Davis Political Science graduate, are not uneducated or uninformed on politics. This predictably does not happen when a White person tables with us.

Measure H provides opportunities in a town where most people, especially homeowners, are White, unlike most renters and students. The No on H efforts are the same people suing nearly every housing project this decade, disproportionately forcing the working class to compete for severely limited housing. That coalition against new jobs and housing is unsurprisingly overwhelmingly White.

While “kindness is everything” signs are displayed across Davis, the No on H side does not support those values we claim we welcome to our community.

Evan Cragin is a Davis resident and a recent UC Davis alum

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  1. Matt Williams

    Evan’s letter clearly illuminates how I personally can be at times “uneducated and misinformed.”  So I look forward to addressing my awareness, or should I say lack of awareness, of what “Okay Boomer” means, and how it is  “offensive and obscenely disrespectful” 

    When David Greenwald commented last week on this incident in the Vanguard morning e-mail I reached out to him to try and understand what I clearly didn’t understand.  He told me that it was “Gen Z speak.”  Since I like Congressman Thompson am a Boomer, my knowledge of “Gen Z speak” is limited … some would say non-existent … and I have used the words “Okay Boomer” lots of times when talking to my high school and college classmates.  I really did not intend to be offensive, obscene, or disrespectful to them, but apparently I was doing so.  Can you help me understand what I was actually saying, so that I can give them an appropriate apology?

    Thank you in advance for your help.

    1. Richard_McCann

      So I look forward to addressing my awareness, or should I say lack of awareness, of what “Okay Boomer” means, and how it is  “offensive and obscenely disrespectful”

      When said by a younger person it is intended to completely dismiss the comments and opinions of someone from that 1946-64 generation. (I also am a Boomer.) It is highly disrespectful, much like a White person calling a Black the N-word. Yes, I am making that direct comparison. It’s the stereotyping and othering that the younger generation decries, yet too many of them use such a tactic as a means of trying to elevate their position in a debate by diminishing others.

      And much as those in the Black community call each n***, us “Boomers” can similarly joke with each other, although in doing so we are acknowledging that the younger generations have some power though name calling.

  2. David Greenwald

    I had recorded the speech at the time and the recording picked up her heckling, I post it here to provide some context as to why Evan and others might be offended by the timing of her remark.

    1. Matt Williams

      Thank you Richard and David for your answers.  Putting Richard’s “it is intended to completely dismiss the comments and opinions of someone from that 1946-64 generation” together with the transcript that David has shared, for the life of me I don’t fathom what there is in Congressman Thompson’s words (his comments and opinions) that anyone would want to dismiss.

      Said another way, what was the “heckler” trying to accomplish by dismissing the description of the events on the Pettus Bridge?  Or alternatively dismissing Thompson’s appeal to “do everything you can to make sure you vote and your family and your friends vote.” 

      Richard’s and David’s comments actually increase the amount of “uneducated and misinformed” grey matter in my brain.

      David’s transcript of Thompson’s remarks makes the connection to Measure H elusive as well.

      I look forward to hearing Evan’s thoughts on this subject.

  3. Todd Edelman

    I am not sure exactly whom the female-appearing and possibly white-identifying person texting in the photo is and what she’s doing with that No on H lawn sign.

    What I know of Congressman John Lewis is that he was great.

    The person who shouted “OK, Boomer!” is ageist, possibly stupid and either actively or less actively racist.

    There’s a problem in a city with people desperate for housing – and equity – with terribly-designed and/or situated projects that promise good things.

    I may appear white, but I don’t identify as white. I am a low-income Ashkenazi (European Jewish) and Child and Grandchild of Shoah (World War II-era genocide of Jews in Europe and adjacent areas) and for these reasons and others more and less tangible I am 1oo% No on H. I am not 100% against DISC, per se, in the sense that it offers some good things, only right now in the wrong spot. For these reasons I am particularly troubled by all the DISC supporters who are fine with or just holding their nose about the chronic exaggerations and misrepresentations of the Yes on H campaign.

    1. Ron Glick

      When we started having elections to decide land use issues we gave license to exaggerations and misrepresentations in public discourse. However what I don’t understand is your claim that being a descendent of the Shoah has some relationship to whether or not we should build a 100 acre business park in an aleady congested area?

  4. Ron Glick

    It didn’t make it through Moderation, and that is okay, but I thought I had the perfect reply to Matt’s heartfelt wonderment at being introduced to the phrase “Okay boomer.”

    I believed my pithy two word reply of “Okay boomer” to Matt would have been the perfect example of both the dismissiveness and condescension implied by the phrase. I meant no offense to Matt but have long  thought that the finest form of teaching is by example.

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