Discrimination Never Gets Old

Indigenous People of North America were perceived to be primitive barbarians by the first Europeans who encountered them. Some of European descent wanted to civilize them. Some just wanted them out of their way. Few had much regard for their culture. By the time modern American culture evolved enough to appreciate what was here before, the damage had been done.

People from Africa who were sold as slaves through almost two and a half centuries of American history were similarly considered to be primitive barbarians. Much of society justified their exploitation, but then wanted them segregated after their emancipation. American culture should have evolved beyond discrimination against those of African descent by now, but it has not.

Although technically not enslaved, American immigrants from China were exploited for their willingness to perform very demanding and often very dangerous manual labor for minimal pay. Yet, they were systematically discriminated against. Many were compelled to reside in neighborhoods on floodplains of cities they inhabited, merely because no one else wanted to be there.

There are too many examples of social discrimination in American history to list. The worst of them are difficult to comprehend. We like to think that, although American society engaged in such abhorrent conduct in the distant past, such discrimination could not be repeated. Yet, Americans of Japanese descent were released from internment camps just seventy-five years ago.

There are always new victims. At a time when ethnic discrimination is less socially acceptable than it had formerly been, it has become easier to persecute, vilify and discriminate against the homeless. Regardless of the original justification for such behavior, the patterns are the same. We are fortunate in Felton that these patterns are not as common as they are elsewhere, and that we recognize the perpetrators for what they are.

Crime Report

Law enforcement agencies, such as our Santa Cruz County Sheriffs’ Office, tend to report crime accurrately. Those who write such reports are trained on how to do so, so do not embelish with speculation or bias. Because their reports are available to everyone in the Community, they are likely to be confronted with even the slightest of innaccuracies, or anything that can be remotely percieved as an innaccuracy. It can not be an easy process.

Many law enforement agencies, such as ours, share some of their information about crime on social media. They sometimes ask the Commmunity for information that might be useful for a partiuclar investgation or locating a missing person. Sometimes, they just want to allert the Community to an escallation of a particular type of crime in a partiular neighborhood. Sometimes, they merely want to share a bit of what they do to protect and serve.

Unfortunately, as useful as social media and networking is, it it where all the work that goes into accuracy without speculation or bias is ignored, as anyone with any random gripe can respond with distirubingly vitriolic and typically irrelevant accusations, judgments, criticism, threats and name calling. The creativity of such comments is as impressive as the ridiculousness. The unhappiest and most hateful of people have very active imaginations.

Of course, the homeless and societally oppressed are almost always the victims of their creative imaginations.

When the Ox sculpture in Felton Covered Bridge Park was vandalized, the homeless were immediately blamed. In fact, Felton League was implicated specifically, without explanation. What was even sillier was that after witnessing the crime, one of our associates went to find someone with a telephone to call for a sheriff deputy, while another pursued the vandals until deputies arrived. The vandals, who were not homeless, were arrested.

Yes, there are a few doozies out there.

One of the all time oddest was more than a year and half ago, when the Sheriffs’ Office described on their Facebook page how they had apprehended the man who started the Bear Fire by burning down his home. Someone, who likely has serious issue with the classic ‘chicken or the egg dilemma of causality’, actually replied to that very same post by blaming the fire on the homeless!

Memorial Day Irony

Back in about 2013, it was much more socially acceptable to discriminate against the homeless, anyone who looked homeless, or just about anyone who could be implicated as an affiliate of the homeless, whether or not such implication was accurate. Anyone getting off a bus with a backpack might have learned how quickly sheriff deputies responded to ‘multiple reports’ of someone suspicious. How contrary to our formerly idyllic culture!

The animosity of a mere few for the homeless and their affiliates is what justified the removal of all the barbecues and one of the picnic tables from Felton Covered Bridge Park, and is why barbecuing is now illegal there. Those who do not drink alcohol were often accused of inebriation or worse. There were false accusations that some homeless lived in tents in the riparian zone of the San Lorenzo River within Felton Covered Bridge Park.

2013 was a long time ago. Not many remember the major hostility of a minor group at that time. To the contrary, we remember the remarkable and consistent generosity and civility of our Community. After all, it is our Community that has always provided so much of whatever we need, and for many of us, provided employment and homes. The Community is why homelessness is much less of a problem than it was six years ago in 2013.

Tomorrow will be Memorial Day. Yesterday was the annual Memorial Day celebration; Felton Remembers Parade and Covered Bridge Festival. Not many remember what should be memorialize on Memorial Day, but it was an excellent celebration nonetheless. Beer was sold from that navy blue tent amongst all those other tents. Freshly cooked and grilled food was sold next to the parking lot, out of view to the left of this picture. Beer, tents, grilled food and irony.