• Marin Voice: Confronting Marin’s problems with racism

    By Debra Taube and Tamela Fish

    We are living in difficult and frightening times. This past weekend, white supremacist and neo-Nazi violence left three dead and many more injured in Charlottesville. Only weeks ago, hateful racist words directed towards an African-American school employee were scrawled on a wall at Tamalpais High School.

    As reported in the IJ, the last six months have seen an uptick in hate incidents in a number of Marin schools. Each time, the local school communities have endeavored to heal by professing wonderful intentions to continue to promote inclusion, equity and tolerance on campus.

    But these acts of violence keep happening — here at home and nationally.

    We must ask: What sort of culture have we created in Marin that supports hate? Are we being honest with ourselves when we congratulate one another for being one of the most progressive counties in the country?

    How does the de facto segregation in our neighborhoods contribute to the problem?

    How about our vehement rejection of affordable housing proposals?

    The unwillingness of many of our local political leaders to take steps to formally protect our immigrant communities from Immigration and Customs Enforcement harassment?

    The statehouse in Sacramento showcases dioramas for each California county. The diorama of Marin has no people, only beautiful redwood forests, ocean vistas and the San Rafael mission.

    Why do we care so deeply for the environment, yet forget the indigenous people who are here now and have lived on this land for centuries? Aren’t our human resources in all their diversity just as important?

    We must understand acts of hate, whether in Charlottesville or those recently committed in our own communities, within the context of our country at large.

    National political leaders and institutions promote hate towards people of color, immigrants, women, Jews and members of the LGBTQI and disability communities. If the internet has moved us in the direction of a global community, it is also a tremendously effective messenger of hate and prejudice, to which our youth are vulnerable spectators.

    It can be tempting to believe kids write hateful words for the shock value — that they don’t fully understand the harm they are causing. However, this way of thinking prevents us from seeing the bigger picture of institutional inequity that promotes and furthers individual attacks.

    And it doesn’t help the situation to state, as one school official did in response to an episode of anti-Semitism this year, that these incidents are isolated or don’t happen here.

    Unfortunately, believing in a post-racial world does not make it so. So, how can we deepen our efforts to both take racial inequity seriously and work towards racial healing in our communities?

    This November, Marin will hold its second annual Equity Summit to discuss strategies to promote equity in education, employment, health, food security, housing and homelessness, race and segregation and immigration. This year, leading up to the summit, United Marin Rising, in partnership with a number of county agencies and grassroots organizations, will host a workshop series titled Race Matters.

    These free events will bring together folks from diverse backgrounds to explore racial disparities in access and quality of resources, and to work towards cross-cultural alliance building.

    Let’s work together to address the causes of the current rising tide of hate and foster the compassionate and inclusive county we all want to live in.

    Debra Taube of San Rafael is active as an advocate for a statewide “sanctuary” law. She is a longtime Marin resident, a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco, and a social justice activist, working with United Marin Rising and SURJ (Showing Up For Racial Justice) Bay Area. Tamela Fish of San Rafael is also a member of United Marin Rising.

  • Marin Voice: May Day march and fiesta focus on a just and empowered future

    By Lisa Bennett and Lynne Hoey

    May 1, International Workers Day, commemorates a 1886 general strike across the United States when the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions led over 300,000 industrial laborers in demanding a humane eight-hour work day.

    Dozens of countries on five continents now celebrate May Day as a national holiday to honor workers’ collective struggles. Its relatively low profile in the United States reflects our country’s suspicion of progressive movements, undervaluation of human labor and relegation of meaningful employment protections ​to the idiosyncratic whims of the private sector.

    United Marin Rising wants to make May Day in Marin different.

    We are a community group formed amid preparations for an Inauguration Day march and rally, with the intention to coalesce disparate organizing efforts across the county.

    In cooperation with established organizations like SEIU Local 1021, Canal Welcome Center, Marin Asian Advocacy Project, San Rafael First United Methodist Church, and Social Justice Center of Marin, as well as newly formed associations like Mill Valley Community Action Network, West Marin Standing Together, and local Indivisible groups, our May Day March & Fiesta aims to provide Marin residents a renewed opportunity to demonstrate public support for workers’ rights.

    All are invited to join us at 2:30 p.m. May 1 in San Rafael’s downtown plaza for a solidarity march to Al Boro Community Center at Pickleweed Park where we will celebrate our spirit of unity with a fiesta featuring local performers and vendors, beginning at 5 p.m.

    In her new book, Sen. Elizabeth Warren points to the shocking reality that, of the nearly quintupled economic growth the United States enjoyed between 1980 and 2015, over 99 percent of generated wealth “trickled down” to only the top 10 percent of earners. In Marin County, where nearly one-third of our neighbors form part of this top 10 percent national income bracket, it can be easy to presume that economic shifts have benefited the general populace and to ignore the many hardships that coexist in our communities.

    However, even here, the most vulnerable among us endure inadequate, sometimes unlawful, working conditions. Many of our neighbors struggle to access basic health care and withstand long commutes from the few neighborhoods available to the working class.

    Even as Marin strives toward compliance with the federal Civil Rights Act after a 2011 finding of racial segregation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced in April 2017 that Marin households earning up to $105,350 require housing subsidies in order to afford exorbitant local rental prices.

    Workers’ plight in Marin is no more palpable than in the widespread exploitation of our undocumented immigrant communities.

    While California laws offer nominal protections, the threat of deportation renders undocumented workers virtually powerless in employment negotiations. This dynamic stands to worsen under the sway of President Donald Trump’s pejorative rhetoric and aggressive policies against immigrant communities. Our national indifference to under-regulated working conditions, particularly in the face of deindustrialization and automation, has enabled a decline in organized labor unions and the resulting near disappearance of many historical gains.

    The Trump administration’s systematic dismantling of regulatory protections across myriad federal agencies threatens to do away with countless more public protections hard won over many generations.

    Yet Marin’s high levels of wealth and education afford us both the opportunity and the obligation to lead the way with forward-thinking, humane policies and practices for everyone. United Marin Rising challenges Marin residents to join a movement that stands for and celebrates all of our neighbors.

    This May Day, let’s bring Marin County together in mutual care and common cause. Together, we can march forward toward a just and empowered future.

    Lynne Hoey of Larkspur is a founding member of United Marin Rising and a social and economic justice activist. Lisa Bennett is a founder of Indivisible Sausalito and is a member of United Marin Rising.

  • Marin Voice: Real facts about Marin housing and commuters

    By Steve Saxe and Wendi Kallins

    A recent Marin Voice claimed that our streets are congested because neighboring counties don’t provide enough jobs to keep their own residents employed, specifically citing Sonoma County.

    The truth is that over 80 percent of Sonoma County residents are employed within their own county. Other percentages are even more telling: 91 percent of Sonoma County’s jobs are filled by Sonoma County residents, while only 38 percent of Marin’s jobs are held by people who live here, simply because the cost of housing in Marin is prohibitive, while most of our jobs pay low- to middle-income wages.

    As long as we demand the services our commuters provide, and we no doubt will continue to do so, workers will commute in.

    Who are these commuters? Your city, town and county employees; your children’s teachers; the barista who serves your coffee; ditto for most of the carpenters, plumbers and electricians who service your homes.