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Opinion: I Was Asked To Speak On A Panel For Zero To Fierce In Arcata

My experience in Humboldt County is that we as people of color are definitely marginalized.

Considering what has happened to the Indigenous people in this region, it should be expected.

Our voices, experiences and presence are not valued in the same ways as our white counter parts who run the local town politics and businesses. We are here. We might not be as visible as the 80% white population, but there is a whole university with various students and faculty of color to include in these events happening in the community.

Especially for a place that prides itself on this liberal, progressive narrative.

The women’s march in Eureka showed me how non-woke white women really only care about women’s rights as it pertains to them–feminism that lacks intersectionality.

I am not the type to criticize without trying to help. So when I was asked to speak on a panel about activism as a woman of color and my platform Slauson Girl for the Zero to Fierce event in Arcata I agreed. Mainly because I trusted the vision of the woman who asked me to devote my time to this matter.

I was surprised when I showed up to the event and there was no panel, but chairs in a circle and myself and maybe one other woman were the only Black women present.

I can go with flow changes but I wish I had a heads up before arriving.

I went with the flow and decided to just listen. There were a few people who dominated the conversation and I figured they needed to get something off their minds.

Then, I was reminded why I do not trust white people who I do not know. And why I always say that even if white people can’t break down racism and white supremacy in book terms, intrinsically, they know that their white skin represents privilege.

The push back is because most white people feel conversation and focus around their white privilege threatens their status–and how many people are going to be so determined to dismantle systems that they benefit from?

This white lady was talking a lot and I was with her. I was like, oh, she woke.

Then she talked about how she was at some conference at a table with business people and she was making a really good point, sounding really smart. This lady disagreed with her and she said that she started analyzing this lady in terms of career, education & looks. After coming to the conclusion they were on the same level professionally, she told the group that in her mind she was like, at least I am white.

I appreciate her honesty and sharing but got damn. That was not what I was there for. Her point was to say that white folks have to constantly check themselves for their thought processes and I agree.

I was asked one question by the organizer of the event, which was about how I got lured to come to Humboldt County to attend HSU.

A native of the area, another woman of color, responded that hearing my story infuriated her, only because she has heard it so many times before.

She said that she wondered what the school was telling kids to get them to Humboldt County and that she felt like they were marketing more than what the town offered.

Two hours of listening then leaving feeling more isolated than when I stepped in the door. My experience in Humboldt County has been mentally and emotionally draining. We were supposed to talk about Josiah….I noticed that this town definitely time and places discussion on his murder, to the point that it never happens and is never initiated by community leaders and members.

What I thought the discussion would be when agreeing to the panel:

Brief Intro: Introduce the mission and the panelists.

Mission: To develop understanding and common ground & promote action addressing the issue of racism in Humboldt County by sharing our stories and generating and discussion with everyone.

Then i’ll have each of you talk about yourselves, like 5 mins or so. This can include but not limited to: background, what kind of work you do locally, and why this topic is so important to you.

Then i’m going to spotlight each of you, i’m hoping we can do like 15 minutes of conversation each.

These are the questions i’ve written down for you. Give me notes on this if you have any! anything to add or take out. Also keep in mind im not trying to just hit you with these questions as they’re written here; I’ll keep it conversational and set them up smoothly for you.

Why did you choose HSU?

Why did you choose writing?

Have you always wanted to be a writer, or was there a turning point for you?

How did your blog (note: is that the term that you use? Do you prefer something more like news website?) come to be? How long has it existed?

You write about the alarming and unresolved murder of student Josiah Lawson. Clearly this has created lots of conversation on campus and in the community about the safety of people of color.

What more could have been done the night Josiah Lawson was murdered, what was done after, and what more can still be done?

After everyone has spoken, we’ll open up discussion and q&a with the group. After that, I want to ask you 3 about community involvement. Each of you can share organizations and community groups anyone can get involved in. If you have any literature or other materials, this is a good time to talk about that.

To end on a high note, I will ask each of you: What is one simple thing each of us can do every day that can bring about the change we are talking about?

Thank you immensely Tina, it is my intention that your singular voice be heard tomorrow. 

I guess since I do not have a connection to Humboldt my story as a Black woman in this community is not important. This is why I always urge people of color and Black people especially, to create your own platforms to tell your own stories.

About slausongirl

Slauson Girl is a South Central native who has a love for journalism, history and all things Hip-Hop--currently living in Humboldt County. She holds a B.A in Critical Race & Gender Theory & a Minor in Journalism.

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2 comments

  1. I also attended that ‘panel’ and was surprised at the circle setting of the whole thing. Both of the panelist barely got to talk and that was WHY I was there. The end of the discussions turned into a purging of ‘racist confessions’. This made me extremely uncomfortable although I applaud the honesty it still didn’t seem like the right space. It almost felt more like ‘group therapy for white people’ instead of hearing from you and the other activist. I believe both of you have much more insight into the topic and I wish I learned more about your history and current projects. I support you fully and I’m sorry that that ‘panel’ was draining. Maybe in the future better arrangements and planning can be made.
    P.S. You saying Humboldt was the white ghetto has really stuck with me and it IS true. Sad, but true…

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