Tim Whyte | Inclusiveness in Eye of the Beholder

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Inclusiveness. It’s a tricky word in 2021. Case in point: The City of Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable, formed amid the heat of discussions about race and inclusion in the woke wake of last summer’s protests.

It’s supposed to promote inclusiveness and harmony. But is it?

We’ve heard rumblings. The first inkling I got that not everyone felt “included” on this exercise in inclusivity was when I got a call a couple months ago from a resident who was concerned about the lack of Asian representation on the roundtable. He had inquired about joining the group to add that perspective, but was stonewalled. I did a little checking and pointed out to him that there is at least one member (out of 20 or so) who is apparently of Asian heritage, and he seemed placated by that.

Then we saw the resignation of one member of the roundtable who notably felt NOT included when the group discussed issues of inclusiveness. He’s white, male, Christian — the trifecta of social justice evil in 2021. His resignation letter to all five City Council members and City Manager Ken Striplin is quite a heater.

“I was under the impression that the purpose of the roundtable was to bring together a group of individuals representative of the Santa Clarita population to ‘eliminate all forms of racism and discrimination, and to promote inclusion, understanding and appreciation of human differences,’” the letter says, in part. “Sadly, after four meetings… I began to see two very clear narratives emerging and it became apparent that if you didn’t wholeheartedly accept these narratives (which were to form our activities and efforts), the only contribution you could make was to be silent, listen and learn more about the two narratives.”

Those narratives, he said, were:  

  • “That ‘systematic racism,’ ‘white supremacy,’ ‘white privilege’ and ‘white fragility’ are an unquestionable fact, and they are very present in Santa Clarita.”
  • “That the LGBTQ+ agenda should be celebrated, amplified and applauded at all opportunities.” 

The letter adds that he does not believe Santa Clarita is systemically racist and an unquestioning acceptance of the entire LGBTQ+ agenda is “an affront” to many Christians’ beliefs. A link to the full letter is in The Signal’s news story in today’s edition. We redacted his name because of the possibility that he would become a casualty of cancel culture for expressing his opinion. 

You may not agree with him. In 2021 Santa Clarita, I know a LOT of people don’t. But there are also a lot of people who DO. Or, like me, you might agree with some of what he says, but not all of it. In any case, if the purpose of the roundtable is to bring people together, shouldn’t a voice like his be part of the conversation? How do you develop greater mutual understanding if you’re not willing to listen to a differing viewpoint?

Then there’s the Hart High School mascot debate. Eyebrows were raised when the roundtable sent us a letter to the editor urging the William S. Hart Union High School District to abandon the Indian mascot. As some people saw it, we had a city-run roundtable telling the Hart district what to do. 

But in Tuesday’s City Council meeting, when that objection was raised, you could almost see Mayor Bill Miranda trying to push the roundtable an arm’s length away from the city. If he had a 10-foot pole under the dais, he would have hauled it out and started shoving.

“We will continue to make sure that it’s very clear to everyone that the roundtable is not an official arm of the city in any way, shape or form,” Miranda said.

Flag on the play! To say the roundtable — which Miranda co-chairs — isn’t an official arm of the city “in any way, shape or form” is, to be blunt, utter B.S.

The city made all the announcements about the roundtable’s formation. Press releases were proudly sent, from the city. The group’s name is “City of Santa Clarita Human Relations Roundtable.” The city owns the roundtable website, scvhumanrelations.com, which includes the city’s branding. The roundtable’s physical address is — you guessed it — at City Hall. And its email address is [email protected]

So it’s not a city thing, says the mayor. But if you want to snail-mail the roundtable a letter, it’s going to City Hall. If you want to send them an email, it’s going to the city’s email server. The mayor is one co-chair, while Cherisse Moore, president of the Hart district governing board, is the other, but the city is clearly more invested in it than the Hart district is. 

The roundtable deems itself exempt from the Brown Act, the state’s open-meeting law, as it is not a legislative body. That’s probably correct, technically. It’s not on par with the Planning Commission or City Council. But why would it not voluntarily operate in an open, transparent way? Isn’t this supposed to be a conversation about our community, and how we reach higher levels of understanding and harmony? Don’t we have to… I don’t know…. TALK to each other for that to happen?

The group’s meetings are not public, nor are its agendas public. Its votes and discussions are secret. When it waded into the Hart mascot debate, it did so in secret.  

So, we have a city-run roundtable — the mayor’s comments notwithstanding — voting secretly to take public positions on a decision to be made by the Hart district. I wonder how it would go over if the Hart district started getting all up in Santa Clarita’s business, taking stances on issues going before the City Council. Like anthrax brownies, that’s how it would go over.

The roundtable’s mission “is to encourage and assist our community to eliminate all forms of racism and discrimination, and to promote inclusion, understanding and appreciation of human differences.”

Great principles. Can’t argue with them. But inclusive means inclusive, not just those who march in lockstep with one’s own viewpoints. It’s hard to “understand and appreciate differences” if only one perspective is allowed. That’s not a “conversation.” It’s a lecture. And when those discussions happen behind closed doors, it doesn’t exactly convey transparency.

Should the roundtable’s mission statement really be something more like this? “Forcing white, cisgender, Christian individuals to recognize that they are inherently bigots and they should keep their opinions to themselves.”

That’s the walk they’re walking now. Will the roundtable start to walk the walk of inclusiveness? That remains to be seen — but at least it could start by being honest about what, exactly, it is.

Tim Whyte is the editor of The Signal.

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