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Kern County & Racism Roundtable


Summer of Struggle


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Issues around race, identity and prejudice are deeply personal. Our team at Kern County Family Magazine is shocked and saddened by current events, including the death of George Floyd and countless others leading up to the public outcry surrounding it.  

Anger, grief and disbelief are part of the national narrative taking place throughout our society. Those feelings are valid. We support their peaceful expression and recognize the need for positive change.

Parents in Kern County include every race, a proud variety of ethnicities that enriches the shared place we call home. Communities, after all, are made up of households, our friends and neighbors raising children. The readers who make up our audience are, first and foremost, people who care about children. 

Perhaps at a time when we struggle to agree about many issues, the wellbeing of Kern County's kids provides common ground from which those seeds of change can grow along with each young person.

That common thread, adults who hold the hands of children in Kern County, hands that are every possible skin tone, is the basis for the community dialogue we aim to foster. 

Parents are tasked with leading difficult conversations at home that will soon also take place on sports fields and in the classroom, at church, and in groups of neighborhood children who will decide on what terms to relate to one another. As parents and caretakers, you are tasked with shaping their worldview. 

As journalists, we are committed to presenting factual information about community efforts to mitigate adverse experiences. We reached out to 15 individuals, municipal entities and social organizations for comment; presumably due in part to the sensitive nature of our request, only a handful responded. We thank them for their participation and respect others' need for space at this time. The phrase "It hurts" came up repeatedly in these interviews regardless of the views expressed. The pain associated with these issues is present here in Kern County and our staff recognizes that. 

Our goal in presenting the diverse viewpoints expressed below is to offer advice that brings hope. All answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Kern County & Racism Roundtable Participants:

Rev
Angelo Frazier is the pastor of outreach and care at RiverLakes Community Church. He has also served as a police chaplain to the Bakersfield Police Department for nearly 30 years.

Arleana
Arleana Waller is the founder and CEO of ShePower Leadership Academy, a non-profit leadership and mentoring organization for girls. She is an author and public speaker who has been featured on national media, including on NBC, CBS and Fox News. 



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Sharon Woolfolk is the executive director of Youth Connection, Inc. and a former parole officer. 

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What do you want families to know about the treatment of people of color in Kern County?

Rev. Frazier: I think there are opportunities here. We have had a lot of progress and we have a lot of progress to go. There are challenges in certain communities, without a doubt, because of multiple factors, from education to family dynamics. I don't accept the idea of institutional racism. I believe there may be different challenges for people. I would rather look at a specific system. Equal opportunity does not always mean equal outcome. I believe in the role determination, talent, and giftedness can play more so than race. 

I'm originally from Washington, D.C. and my mother had collected some signs from before the original civil rights movement with phrases like "No colored allowed." I saw race riots take place then and I've seen them now. Violence may yield short-term results but it is never a long term solution.

Bakersfield is a family oriented-town, not a perfect place to live. It is a big city with a small town feel. No place is perfect, but we can come together as a community to make it better. Being here in Bakersfield gives us an access point to all of California. 

 Waller: The recent wave of Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality highlights gaps in economic inequality for Black families in America. These gaps stagnate the financial wellbeing of Black families for generations past and generations to come. This has been an alarm clock screaming that America has consistently pushed the snooze button on. Racism is bad for everyone, it generates exclusion, discrimination, oppression, and exploitation in a number of ways.

People of color, speaking specifically of Black people, suffer from an intense intentional level of implicit bias and racial disparities that put them at a disadvantage simply because of the color of their skin. Just being who God perfectly created us to be has politicized our existence. For example, Black families are not receiving the same quality of health care that white families receive. COVD-19 exposed those disparities as a failure of the health care system. 

Educational disparities are evident early on in childhood and persist through K-12 education. If they can send a man to the moon, can they not fix racism? Education is the key.

Economic disparities have caused unimaginable gaps that have stagnated the finances and reduced the economic security of Black people, setting back their chances for upward mobility and, as a result, a fair shot at prosperity. So, when we look at the state of America, the world, as it relates to Black families, it's deeply set in oppression.

Woolfolk: The effects of racism are real and cannot be ignored. The inequality and lack of cultural sensitivity cannot be ignored. The injustices that have been inflicted upon people of color cannot be ignored. Not every American citizen has the same equalities. Unfortunately, when we truly open our eyes and ears, we see and hear about the people in our community who have been treated unfairly. For too long, people of color have had to endure the injustices that have taken place in our legal, education, and healthcare system, and in our neighborhoods. 

The African American community is going through an extremely painful experience. The murder of George Floyd, due to racism, was real and cannot be ignored. Floyd's death touched the lives of people across the country.



How can Kern County families 
help others at this time?


Rev. Frazier: Be informed. Don't just get on a website or go on social media. 

Most of the meetings of the Bakersfield Police Department are open. You can attend. You can do citizen ride-alongs. Families are invited to come out to events throughout the year to get to know the police officers in their area. Come out and meet them. [See the sidebar on page 20 for more about the Bakersfield Police Department.]

Waller: Be vocal, seek to understand. "The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight." - Proverbs 4:7

If you turn to any major news station, you will get insight. The world is not okay. Talk with your children about racism and its hate and oppression. Start early and remain consistent, which can help your children buffer the toxins of mainstream society. Set the stage for a positive outlook on different cultures and people who look different from your children.

There is no one 'right way' to talk to your children about race and relations, but you must have the conversation and guide them to the side of love.

Ask your kids if they've seen racist language in YouTube videos or comments. Help them understand how following or sharing racist accounts spreads hate. You can help eliminate racism through a conversation.

Woolfolk: Remember the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would want to be treated. Be kind. Be understanding. In order to make positive changes in our world, we need to come together as a community. To do better, we must begin in our own homes. When we know better, then we can do better. Educate yourself. Learn about other ethnicities. Get to know people. Build relationships, expand your network of friends and acquaintances. Talking about race issues may make you feel uncomfortable, but it is important to have those uncomfortable conversations with our children when they are young. Teach your children to respect all people, regardless of their ethnicities.

What efforts should families be aware of to further this community conversation? What other steps can they take?

Rev. Frazier: Parents can spend time at home, especially in light of social distancing. Now is a great time for kids to open up. Listen to your kids, find out where they are on these issues and walk with them through the tough areas. 

Think of some ways to make change in your neighborhood. Reach out to neighbors. Find ways to take care of each other. Ask yourself, 'What can I do to make it better?' Once a week, give away donuts and water bottles in your neighborhood. Visit a neighbor just to say hi. Write thank you notes, even to law enforcement. 

Get involved in community, neighborhood, legal and social processes. Consider setting up a time where a child can talk to a police officer. Become involved in the courts, city council, and school board meetings. These agencies may have long meetings but they are trying to be transparent with you. Ask them questions and open a dialogue. 

Also, I would encourage families to have some fun together. Go camping. Plan a family outing. Learn about your family and our nation's history and read the Constitution for yourself. Study the History Channel and look at some of the great shows that are out there. Pray together. 

Waller: Seek to support Black and Brown organizations. Be willing to volunteer, make donations or find ways to get involved. You can't hate what you know and love. Be willing to be the only one in the room. Attend events around town and join conversations you typically wouldn't be a part of. Find your heart and give it a voice. Stand on the side of love in all things. 

How can families support each other regardless of their ethnicity? What should allies seek to do?

 Waller: Families can support by being true allies.

Listen.

Listen to what marginalized people are saying face to face and on social media.

Get educated.

Seek out books, films and articles that dive deep into real history and issues facing the Black and Brown communities.

Get involved.

Join local groups working for social justice, subscribe to their email list and follow them on social platforms.

Intervene.

When you encounter something that makes you feel uncomfortable, find a way to make that wrong right, speak up, tell the right person and act.

Speak up.

When a family member or friend says something hateful or ignorant, even in the form of a joke, call them out on it. Silence allows oppression to continue.

Welcome discomfort.

When you encounter something that makes you feel uncomfortable, sit with it, explore why, and be graceful during the understanding.

Donate.

Commit to financially supporting organizations that are working to unsuppress the suppressed. 

These actions allow you to do your small part to undo racism. That will only happen when we all do it together.

Woolfolk: Show true compassion and empathy. In order to be effective, true compassion has to lead to action. Throughout our communities, at work and school, at the grocery store, when we see things that are not right, we need to take action: if you see something say something. Hold law enforcement, our government and others accountable for their actions. 

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Let's celebrate the diversity that exists in our country; diversity is a valuable asset. Every person is valuable and every voice has value. When people feel accepted and valued, the world becomes a better place. Let's stand in solidarity with all the families, friends, and communities who have lost loved ones senselessly due to racism. Let's use our voices to vote in the next election. Let's come together and work together to make some positive changes throughout Kern County.

Statement from Kern Dance Alliance

Kern Dance Alliance (KDA) is deeply aware of the pain caused by racism. We recognize that dance has frequently not been a welcoming or even safe place for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). In fact, dance has been historically racist in many explicit ways, and the legacy of that must be fought every day. KDA supports our Black dance community and since our launch in 2015, our activism has been rooted in our actions displayed through our programs and services. Racism has no place in dance and we will continue to work to bring the joy of movement to every part of our beautifully diverse community.

KDA strives for diversity and, as a result, hosts a variety of annual programs that are focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. KDA worked with Erica Edwards, an accomplished consultant and public speaker who champions change to advance the art of dance, on May 4 and May 11 by hosting a two-part series, "Discussing Diversity in Dance". As a result of the success of both sessions, KDA was honored to bring Erica back for a more focused topic, "Defining an Anti-Racist Learning Environment", on June 12. Participants from the sessions were unanimous in agreement that they would like to partake in more discussions hosted by Erica Edwards.

As a result, KDA is working to provide a multi-series discussion for our community.

-Kern Dance Alliance Board of Directors
Statement from the City of Bakersfield

"Residents should know that the City of Bakersfield works for and to support all those who live, work, or visit here our city. We're deeply committed to providing public services that are based on equality, fairness, and justice for everyone in our community. We are working to keep the public involved and informed on what we are doing to serve the community fairly.



We hope that all members of the community, including families who live here in Bakersfield, will treat each other with the respect and dignity that we all deserve. Kindness goes a long way and we should all remember that we're neighbors and members of the same community. We hope and encourage families to support one another, helping create a stronger community." –Joe Conroy, public information officer for the City of Bakersfield

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