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New SF board president should fight for new Human Rights Commission

January 18, 2015

by Allen Jones

There is a new sheriff in town … I mean a new president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She is Supervisor London Breed and I don’t need to tell anyone who knows of her that she is no shrinking violet.

District 5 Supervisor London Breed, though still in her first term, was elected president of the board on Jan. 8, 2015.

District 5 Supervisor London Breed, though still in her first term, was elected president of the board on Jan. 8, 2015.

However, Blacks excited at the fact that a Black person will now guide this board is a trap that only sycophants can really enjoy. City Hall is still hostile to the San Francisco Black community.

In fact, if electing a Black man president of the United States did not mean less racism coming out of Washington, D.C., then a Black woman president of our local city legislative body will not mean less racism coming from SF City Hall. Nevertheless, I do see hope.

Great leaders of Black San Francisco include Sun Reporter Publisher Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett, Judge Joe Kennedy and Supervisor Willie B. Kennedy, Supervisor Ella Hill Hutch, Supervisor Doris Ward, Supervisor Terry Francois, to name a few.

These are some of the thousands of Black San Franciscans that made me proud to call San Francisco home. Just like my late father, many saw a great opportunity for Blacks in California and moved to The City. Surprised to discover that the deviant but subtle racism was here too, with determination, they stuck it out.

Principled, dignified and nobody’s fool, these late and former Black leaders of San Francisco fought for the civil and human rights with John Carlos and Tommy Smith-type Olympic style.

Sadly, in passing the baton, I am willing to admit that my generation dropped the baton. But to the credit of new leaders like Supervisor London Breed – raised in a housing project in the Fillmore district of San Francisco –picked up that baton, along with a college degree to now be able to control the gavel at the weekly SF Board of Supervisors meetings. Along with other responsibilities for the next two years, Blacks will not be able to say she did nothing, if we are not willing to run with her.

Until recently, most of the SF Human Rights Commission’s budget was allocated for monitoring and enforcing nondiscrimination in City contracting. Its dismal record finally prompted removal of those duties to the new Contract Monitoring Division in the City Administrator’s Office. That leaves HRC free to fulfill its original primary purpose according to the City Charter, “(i)nvestigate complaints of unlawful discrimination against any person.”

Until recently, most of the SF Human Rights Commission’s budget was allocated for monitoring and enforcing nondiscrimination in City contracting. Its dismal record finally prompted removal of those duties to the new Contract Monitoring Division in the City Administrator’s Office. That leaves HRC free to fulfill its original primary purpose according to the City Charter, “(i)nvestigate complaints of unlawful discrimination against any person.”

Ms. Breed is also well qualified to do battle for all San Franciscans, but particularly in the area of reversing the city’s dwindling Black population.

One of the first tasks for the new board president should be to hit the gavel so hard the entire board wakes up the sleeping dogs at the current San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Then pressure Mayor Ed Lee to look into the commission’s record on fighting racism in San Francisco.

According to Wikipedia: “The San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC) is a charter commission of the City and County of San Francisco that works to increase equality, eradicate discrimination, and to protect human rights for all people. The HRC enforces City Ordinances and policies on nondiscrimination and promotes social and economic progress for all.”

Its primary purpose, according to the San Francisco Charter, is to “(i)nvestigate complaints of unlawful discrimination against any person.”

First formed in 1964 to deal with the discrimination against Blacks back then, it too has since dropped the baton. And it is time for the Black community to encourage the new board president to demand a new HRC pick up the baton and relay a message that racism, bigotry, prejudice and marginalization of Blacks will not be tolerated by a new Human Rights Commission.

Many young SF Blacks do not know that this charter commission was once a powerful ally in fighting for their rights.

As this country faces renewed racial tensions between Blacks and Whites over the White police who shoot and kill unarmed Black men, we need a Human Rights Commission.

According to San Francisco Code Section 12A.5, “Powers and Duties,” the Commission shall have the power and duty to:

“a. Study, investigate, mediate and hold public hearings on community-wide problems arising in this City and County which may result in intergroup tensions or discrimination ….” This includes the power to petition for a court order pursuant to Section 1991 of the California Code of Civil Procedure.

Allen Jones

Allen Jones

Daryle Washington is a Black father of five who was once employed at Recology Co. One day in December 2013, he arrived on his job, only to be greeted by a noose. He reported the incident to his boss and in typical fashion, he got the hollow promises. The White co-worker who put up the noose should have been hauled into the HRC along with his supervisor and read the riot act.

Mr. Washington and many other Blacks do not know that the city’s Human Rights Commission was established to help them fight against racial harassment on the job. Seven months later, Washington quit working for Recology Co. The stress of working alongside someone with racist tendencies and no real reprimand from company bosses allowed an unhealthy work environment to fester.

As this country faces renewed racial tensions between Blacks and Whites over the White police who shoot and kill unarmed Black men, we need a Human Rights Commission.

If the new board president is willing to fight for a new commission that is as ugly as a bulldog or bites like a pit-bull against racism, it can only happen if we first take the cute little tutu off of the current Human Rights Commission.

San Francisco writer Allen Jones, author of “Case Game: Activating the Activist,” can be reached at (415) 756-7733 or jones-allen@att.net. Visit his website, at http://casegame.squarespace.com.

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