Editorial: Black Lives Matter – what’s next?

Last month, millions of protesters marched all over the world – including in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View – calling for an end to systemic racism and for police reform. The brutal May 30 killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a long-overdue response.


The myth of the ‘model minority’

If you are South Asian American and perpetuate anti-Blackness, you have fallen prey to an oppressive tactic of the United States government, the concept of “model minorities.”
To combat anti-Blackness, we need to understand the history behind the term “model minority.” In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson enacted the Immigration and Nationality Act, prioritizing “individuals with specialized skills” in the immigration processes. Consequently, the only South Asians allowed to immigrate to America were exceedingly intelligent and/or talented in a specific discipline. By only allowing the “best” South Asians to enter the country, the U.S. government predetermined the South Asian immigrant population to be successful.
On the other hand, people from the African diaspora were forcibly brought to the U.S. through the transatlantic slave trade. They had no choice to come to America, let alone indulge in the opportunity to learn and develop special skills to “prove their worth.” Therefore, South Asian Americans were systematically supported to be more successful, making the U.S. government consider them a model minority. However, this detrimental approach to immigration policy allowed our government to rest on their laurels and believe that their work in supporting South Asian Americans was advancing the mission of all inclusivity and diversity in the U.S.
Meanwhile, African Americans, who were forced into immigrating and were not given the right resources to become successful, continued to be oppressed and struggled to survive. The African-American community fought through chattel slavery, Jim Crow, redlining and now police brutality, while the media painted South Asian Americans as good, law-abiding citizens. When African Americans engaged in protests to merely exist as equals in U.S. society, South Asian Americans benefited off of their “model minority” status, playing into the government’s hands, even if it meant turning a blind eye to the continued oppression of their fellow peoples of color.
You might be thinking, “Just because I’m not Black doesn’t mean I don’t experience racism.” The difference here is that the racism that we, as South Asian Americans, have faced and continue to face is not institutionalized and not as rampantly widespread and maintained across U.S. government policies as racism that Black Americans face.
Now, more than ever, the South Asian-American community has the opportunity to reject the model minority messaging. One of the officers abetting the murder of George Floyd was Asian American, and we, as a minority population and a part of the larger Asian community, have a responsibility to strongly condemn this anti-Blackness and racism. The Asian-American population has long played a major role in the United States’ systematic racism: Now is the time to fight back.

Anushka Srinivasan was born and raised in Los Altos.

Mtn. View police remain major contributor to community


On Memorial Day, communities across this country watched in horror as a former officer in Minneapolis held George Floyd to the ground, his knee restraining Floyd by his neck, actions which directly led to Mr. Floyd’s death.
            Police agencies across the country, including the Mountain View Police Department, came out to condemn, in no uncertain terms, the inexcusable actions of the officer. The department reiterated a vow to continue the strong partnership with the community, as it has for decades. The actions of the former Minneapolis police officers, at their very core, went against everything the Mountain View Police Department stands for, from human rights to rendering immediate medical aid for those calling out for help.
            With more than 36,000 calls for service in 2019 alone, the Mountain View Police Department is a valuable organization in our community, serving vulnerable populations, our children, and more with a Mountain View-first mentality. The department is known as a dedicated leader in the community policing model. In the past three months alone, the department has single-handedly helped distribute nearly 10,000 face coverings to those who need them to help us flatten the curve of COVID-19. Department employees have distributed more than 2,000 bags of food to those in need. And they have been working in close collaboration, as they have for years, with community-based organizations to help find housing resources for those who need to stay healthy and safe while we battle this pandemic.
            For more than 20 years, officers have served the children of Mountain View as mentors and trusted adults with the Dreams & Futures program, which helps students learn and deal with peer pressure, family issues, drugs, and more. These officers are beloved by their students, and they are repeatedly requested for reading days, assemblies, and more.
            And that’s not all – our community comes out in force every year to help the Mountain View Police Department build meal baskets for families in need for Cops + Gobblers, thanks to the incredible donations from our community members. Last year, in less than 45 minutes, Mountain View residents, in tandem with officers, assembled more 400 baskets that were in turn distributed by both officers and families to those who needed some help making their Thanksgiving Day special.
            Every year in December, Mountain View officers help bring holiday gifts to thousands of Mountain View students with the Cops That Care program – an event that takes months to coordinate but is worth every smile of the more than 1,000 children that walk through the door to receive a present of their choosing in time for the holidays.
            These are just some of the efforts you may know about, and are part of the fabric of who we are and the values we hold. They are ingrained in the community policing model, which the Mountain View Police Department wholeheartedly embraces and follows. This doesn’t include the tens of thousands of calls for service Mountain View officers were dispatched to last year – calls for crime, calls for help, calls for someone to be there to support them when no one else was.
            Of those 36,000 calls last year, less than a fraction of 1 percent – just 26 calls total – required the use of force, resulting in, at most, minor injuries. That’s because Mountain View officers are trained holistically to constantly work to de-escalate, to help those in need at their pace and to ensure that every possible avenue is taken before force is even brought to the table as an option. This isn’t just a policy we have – it is ingrained in multiple policies, it is repeatedly covered in training every year and it is a constant topic of discussion within the department.
            Your Mountain View police officers care deeply for this community. They work to build bridges every day, not because it’s their job, but because they, like you, are men and women searching for a better way to serve the greater good. They will continue to meet you at the table, be there when you are having your worst day and be there for every call in between. Because that is what it means to be a police officer in Mountain View.
            Going forward, there will be many moments and conversations with many community members in many neighborhoods. Mountain View police will continue to be there to listen, to learn and to help create intentional, meaningful movements forward.
            Margaret Abe-Koga is mayor of Mountain View and Max Bosel is police chief.

Letters to the Editor: Los Altos Hardware, open letters to LA, LAH

End of an era for iconic ice cream cone

My parents, Henry and Sue Nesmith, have owned Los Altos Hardware for almost 40 years. Before the hardware store took ownership of the property in 1983, the building was home to the famous Clint’s Ice Cream shop, followed by a wonderful French restaurant. The building is known for its iconic ice cream cone that sat on the roof marking the spot of Clint’s Ice Cream Store.
In the midst of obtaining a new roof, Los Altos Hardware realized the historic ice cream cone had to be removed. Every rainy winter the cone would leak severely and merchandise would be ruined because of water damage. For years, we tried to patch the leaks from the inside, but they could never be fixed. When we started to investigate with the roofing company, we realized the foundation was made of narrow wooden beams that were decaying and full of termite damage. Unfortunately, the memorable ice cream cone had to be removed. It was a miracle it never fell over!
We understand the sentimental value of the ice cream cone and are terribly sad to see it go. Through the years we have loved hearing the stories of our customers’ experiences at Clint’s and hope those stories never stop! We hope to one day re-create a more stable structure to represent Clint’s ice cream cone.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments you may have. Los Altos Hardware loves being a part of this wonderful community and we thank you for your continued support!
Nina Nesmith
Operations manager
Los Altos Hardware

LAH: All benefits, no assistance

Following is an open letter to Los Altos Hills Mayor Michelle Wu.
After reading your June 10 letter to the editor (“LAH mayor says town backs small businesses”) – your rebuttal to the negative response about the choice the town of Los Altos Hills made to provide just a molecule of funding assistance for the Los Altos Small Business Relief Fund (Los Altos Hills funded one business grant) – I was very unhappy to learn that Los Altos Hills seems to want all of the benefits from a close-in and charming downtown with free parking, but chooses not to assist in any meaningful way during an emergency shutdown of the business community.
The tax-base argument is groundless. Santa Clara County reported a very high rate of recent residential property tax payments, while retail businesses have been prevented from generating revenue, which in turn generates sales-tax revenue. These businesses have been forced to shut down and limit shopping for the sole purpose of keeping everyone in our community healthy.
It is a very unbalanced burden the retailers, service providers and restaurants are forced to endure. Their landlords and mortgage holders are not required by the same COVID-19 orders to stop collecting monthly rents and mortgages. The reason the fund was created was to help, in a small way, balance the inequitable financial burden that continues. The city of Los Altos understands how critical it is to help share the burden.
Due to lack of funding, 20 small businesses that qualify for a Small Business Relief grant will not be provided that assistance. Perhaps Los Altos Hills would prefer to pay on a “per trip” basis: a toll gate at each road artery leading into downtown Los Altos from the Hills.
Sherry Scott
President, Sherry Scott
Design
Los Altos


LA council, mayor: ‘We can do better’

I find Los Altos City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins’ off-handed comment to Councilwoman Neysa Fligor extremely offensive. Her apology is hollow. She owes an apology to the community as well for her insulting remark. Racist language hurts all who hear it, regardless of their background. Mayor Jan Pepper’s defense of Bruins’ remark is equally concerning. She owes an apology to the community as well.
Their behavior is emblematic of a lack of awareness of council members as to the systemic racism present in American society and the implicit cultural bias that permeates our lexicon.
Apologize to the citizens of Los Altos. Educate yourselves. Share your plan to work with the Los Altos Police Department on reducing racially motivated stops and inviting community oversight.
We can do better. We demand better from our leadership.
Gretchen Craford
Los Altos


Chamber programs making a difference

The leadership provided by the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce has been instrumental to our community during this historic time. The Chamber has worked with several local organizations to create the following new programs.
• The Los Altos Small Business Relief Fund. The fund provides $5,000 grants to eligible storefront businesses across all Los Altos business districts.
• What’s Open Los Altos. The project provides one online location to order, purchase and donate to support Los Altos businesses through the COVID-19 crisis.
• The Los Altos Gift Card. The initiative supports online gift card sales to support our local merchants and restaurants.
• Open Streets Los Altos. The program works with both retail and restaurant owners to build consensus and find a temporary solution that supports our entire community. Residents have expanded opportunities to shop and dine within social-distancing protocols through the open streets of downtown Los Altos Thursday through Sunday.
• Facebook groups and social media campaigns. Such efforts engage residents through social media to share photos of their favorite takeout and recent retail purchases.
We ask you to show your support of our efforts by donating to the Chamber – losaltoschamber.org.
Kim Mosley
President, Los Altos
Chamber of Commerce

Other Voices: Black in Los Altos

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Marie Godderis/Town Crier Editorial Intern
Protesters take to the streets of Los Altos June 5 to protest police brutality and systemic racism.

By Noah Tesfaye

I’ve been a resident of Los Altos for seven years. And as a black resident and part of a race that makes up less than 150 people in our city, I have never felt particularly seen or heard.

Letters to the Editor: Street closures, mayor's bias, climate change

Group offers support for street closures

We fully support the Los Altos City Council’s June 9 decision regarding street closures to experiment with ways to support downtown restaurants and retail and personal service businesses and the community as a whole.

Los Altos Property Owners Downtown believes a key to having a successful downtown Los Altos has always been striving to increase “feet on the street,” which serves all the downtown businesses. Obviously, the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders have necessarily severely limited for public health reasons “feet on the street,” causing great damage to most if not all businesses in our community.

The message is clear: Racism will no longer be tolerated

 

Note: Following is Los Altos Mayor Jan Pepper’s statement, read at the June 9 council meeting in the wake of the local Black Lives Matter protests.

The last couple weeks have been a tumultuous time in our country and in our community. It highlights how very far we still have to go to fight racism in this country. I want to make it clear that I firmly support Black Lives Matter. I am engaged. And I am enraged.
There is systemic racism toward the black community in this country. I honor the memories of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, and the too many others who have been killed or harmed by the racism that persists in this country and continues to divide our society. Growing up as a child of the ’60s, we thought we were making progress. As the Rev. Martin Luther King said in December of 1967, “There can be no justice without peace and there can be no peace without justice.” There still is not justice, there still is not peace. Rampant racism still exists.
The color of our skin should not matter – we are all humans – we share a common humanity and a desire to live a meaningful life. We are born into this world as equals, with no say as to who our parents are or what color skin we have. None of this should matter – we should all have the same opportunities to make the best of our lives. But unfortunately, that is still not the reality in this country. Black citizens are not treated the same as others, and that is wrong. The peaceful protest march that was held in Los Altos last Friday made it clear that thousands of us here in Los Altos agree: Black Lives Matter. Racism has no place in this community and will not be tolerated. We must promote and continue to fight for freedom and justice.
This also applies to how the police treat citizens, which I will discuss in a moment. This applies to the words we use in expressing ourselves. There is no place for racist speech, particularly among our elected officials, and this will not be tolerated in Los Altos.
I have received hundreds of emails from residents regarding the inappropriate words that have a racist history recently used by council member Jeannie Bruins at one of our council meetings in May. I do not condone such language. Hundreds of residents have further demanded that I, as the mayor, take action to remove Ms. Bruins from office.
State election law does not provide for the mayor to remove any council member, nor for the council as a whole to remove any council member. I checked with our city attorney and she said, “There is no process and/or action the city council can take to remove an elected official.”
The brutal police killing of George Floyd and so many other black citizens is wrong and unjust. We cannot sit idly by when this kind of action continues to take place across our country. We have received hundreds of emails from residents and others urging Los Altos to adopt the 8 Can’t Wait policies and to defund the Los Altos Police Department.
Tonight I propose that Vice Mayor Neysa Fligor and I form an ad hoc committee to work diligently with Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea, members of our community, and other city staff to ensure that our training, policies and practices reflect the values of our community. I propose that this subcommittee be in line with the call issued by President Barack Obama to mayors and other city council officials to introduce common-sense limits on police use of force. The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is calling on mayors to commit to the following actions:
1. Review your police use of force policies.
2. Engage your communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences and stories in your review.
3. Report the findings of your review to your community and seek feedback.
4. Reform your community’s police use of force policies.
The vice mayor and I will be coming back to the council at our next meeting on June 23 with a specific agenda item and a resolution outlining the goals and processes of this subcommittee’s work. I hope that the council will fully support this proposal so that we can quickly get to work. This can start the process without delay.
As your mayor, I will do all that I can to promote justice in Los Altos – to fight for equality, to respect each other’s humanity, and particularly to recognize that Black Lives Matter.


Submit a Letter to the Editor

The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at bruceb@latc.com. Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

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