This essay starts in San Diego at the California Democratic Party's 2018 Convention. I've been a tad harsh to party leadership in the past. In particular our Party Chair's tone deaf anti-trans and anti-gender non-confirming statements during the LGBT+ Caucus. Well, it seams the LGBT+ Caucus was asked by party leadership to educate them and for the most part, party leaders were far more respectful of diversity so hat tip to Chairman Bauman for the progress. (Hat tip taken away though for Bauman's boneheaded dis of Kimberly Ellis, an African American female whom he narrowly beat for CA Party Chair, which followed his plea to support African American female candidates in the wake of the Alabama special election. Dude is seriously his own worse enemy. One other comment about the Dem Convention: While party leadership got the diversity memo, many elected officials and in particular Labor leaders didn't and continued to use greetings that were non-gender inclusive. Get it together people! Final hat tip to the LGBT+ Caucus though for raising cultural sensitivity issues. Now back to my main story...) During the convention many speakers rightfully raised the need for sensible national gun bans on automatic weapons and in doing so would site the history of gun violence at our schools. Out of the dozens and dozens of speeches I witnessed, only one, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, mentioned the Cleveland Elementary School Massacre. Now, if it were at a national convention, I could forgive the omission but these are local folks and I found the erasing of our history upsetting and downright appalling. And yet we Stocktonians have been just as guilty.
Two weekends ago I attended Stockton's March for our Lives , coordinated by youth leader Valentino Silva. Silva did a masterful job of bringing together some of the brightest and passionate group of teen leaders I have ever seen assembled locally. Many of the speakers refereed to Cleveland However, and this is not intended as a dis of Silva or other organizers of the event, not a single speaker mentioned the names of those lost nor did anyone raise the racist motivations behind the shooting. I don't blame the youth, the parents, the teachers who spoke that day because we as a community have erased that part of our history ourselves. And it started the day following the shooting.
When people talk about the Cleveland School Massacre they often will bring up that it was the first modern era mass shooting at a school or they bring up the fact that Michael Jackson (at the peak of his zeitgeist) visited the school to lift up the students spirits. Some bring up Patrick Purdy and his volatile upbringing but rarely does anyone point out the role racism played that day. Mathematically, you just can't dismiss the fact that 100% of the fatalities were Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants and yet dismiss is exactly what officials and media did at the time. An excerpt from a New York Times article at the time:
"But nothing in the picture so far gives a good clue to what led the man, Patrick Edward Purdy, into the murderous rampage at the Cleveland Elementary School. He killed five Indochinese children and wounded 30 other people with an AK-47 assault rifle before committing suicide.
''He did not leave us a message,'' the chief investigator, Capt. Dennis Perry of the Stockton Police Department, said today. ''Without that we'll never know exactly why he did what he did. In a way, he beat us because we'll never know.''
Investigators disputed suggestions that Mr. Purdy nursed a special dislike for Asians, saying that interviews with family members and co-workers showed he disliked everybody, particularly authority figures like police officers."
So Stockton of the investigators, right? So, Purdy, arrested prior to the shooting with an Aryan how-to-manual. Who repeatedly complained about his unhappiness at how Asian immigrants taking jobs away. Who was found with an Aryan book at the time of his death. Wasn't motivated by racism, oh, wise local official? Give. Me. A Break! It took an organization outside of Stockton to force then Attorney General to issue a report sighting racism's role in the massacre. Yet, we shouldn't be surprised by any of this. Stockton has a wonderful history of ignoring it's racist past and racist present too. Michael Fitzgerald did a wonderful job blogging about all this last year but I fear not enough people paid attention. One group he unfortunately lumps into the "Asian" category is the atrocious way racist Stockton treated it's Filipino community. I urge everyone to pick up the book Little Manila is in the Heart written by Dawn Bohulano Mabalon. Or book Dillon Delvo, Executive Director of Little Manila Rising to speak at your Chamber, Rotary or social club. And while your at it, book Bobby Bivens, President of Stockton's NAACP. The stories these individuals share should be common knowledge to every Stocktonian but instead they are only known by a few.
Why is this important? Because if we are ever going to move forward as a community, we have to better understand our differences. I remember going to school at El Dorado Elementary when the South East Asian immigration influx resulted in a change in dynamics on campus. Not a single thing was addressed by an adult on campus. This continued all the way through high school and the systematic ignorance resulted in my high school, Amos Alonzo Stagg, pretty much being a segregated campus. We non-South East Asian students even horribly referred to the parking lot we didn't use as the "Asian Parking Lot". Even some of the adults on campus called it that. During the planning of our 20 year reunion, the committee realized that we didn't know half of our graduating class. Guess the ethnicity of the students we didn't know? All of this misunderstanding, miseducation and ignorance leads to implicit biases. That plays out in police officers not understanding how to culturally navigate through family disputes when they are called. It plays out in wrong-headed education policies. It plays out with people attacking our city's first black mayor for reasons like, "he's uppity" or "he comes off cold and aloof". No, not all of our city's problems are due to ignored racism but we can do a much better drop of remembering our past and integrating the lessons learned into our present. SUSD introducing Ethnic Studies into our classrooms is a great start but we also need all the other school districts to follow suit. We as a community need to listen to the organizers of Cleveland School Remembers when they call for stronger gun legislation but we also need to invite the parents, families and/or community leaders from the South East Asian communities of Stockton to participate in the Cleveland remembrance demonstrations (or somehow acknowledge them). In order for us to truly be One Stockton, we have to all continually contribute to teaching each other what makes us each awesomely unique and diverse. Then we can get to work, together, building a stronger Stockton.
p.s. I'm saving my thoughts on the brown on black racism within our city for another blog. To be continued...