Editorial by Dr. Willie and Mary Ratcliff
The Chronicle caught the irony. “It seemed like a bizarre move for San Francisco’s progressive supervisors to remove a self-made African American woman from City Hall’s top job and replace her with an affluent white man, the goal being to prevent rich white men from shaping city politics,” wrote Rachel Swan on the Thursday, Jan. 25, front page.
Nobody did London Breed any favors at Tuesday’s board meeting. Not the supervisors who swept her out of the mayor’s office that had been given to her by the city charter and not Ron Conway and the big money boys whose overly aggressive support was the screen the supervisors hid their racism behind.
So London heads into the June election owing nothing to anybody, only the people of San Francisco, including the most needy. “Let history record London Breed as among San Francisco’s greatest mayors,” Rev. Dr. Amos Brown proclaimed in the January Bay View.
The hours of passionate testimony before the supervisors voted Tuesday – a vote we now know was totally rigged beforehand – provides a platform for the mayoral campaign leading up to the June 5 election. London’s three campaign priorities – homelessness, housing and public safety – were compellingly articulated by a long line of San Franciscans who know those issues inside and out from experience.
“Let history record London Breed as among San Francisco’s greatest mayors,” Rev. Dr. Amos Brown proclaimed in the January Bay View.
As Rev. Arnold Townsend told the Bay View: “I would love to see her take on the homeless issue. I believe it’s so neglected because over 70 percent of the homeless are Black.”
Not only was our first Black woman mayor swept out of office – an office we are determined to return her to in June – but Black people have been swept out of San Francisco. While most at City Hall turned their backs, only Supervisor London Breed joined activists opposing the eviction of 100-year-old Iris Canada from her home of 60 years so it could fetch top dollar as a condo.
“San Francisco is a racist city,” wrote Fred Jordan to the San Francisco African American Chamber of Commerce he heads and other allies the day after a Black woman was removed from the mayor’s office. Dianne Feinstein wasn’t removed when she, as president of the Board of Supervisors like London Breed, succeeded a mayor who died in office.
“Black people and people of justice better come together. We have a lot of work to do,” added Fred Jordan, and those are our marching orders. All the people who testified at Tuesday’s board meeting – most of them poor and many Black, people with the strength to hang on through wave after wave of assaults on their homes, their livelihoods and even their lives – will put all their might behind returning London Breed to Room 200, City Hall. They’ll remember the cruelty of a Board of Supervisors who had rigged the vote, making their appeals futile.
Mostly, though, London’s voters will be motivated by imagining what a great city San Francisco would be if it were truly progressive and a lot less racist. Racism is usually subtle here. As Harry Belafonte says in “King in the Wilderness,” a film that just premiered at Sundance, “(I)n the North, the racial hypocrisy was very subverted,” and King wanted to expose it in order to eliminate it.
Not only was our first Black woman mayor swept out of office – an office we are determined to return her to in June – but Black people have been swept out of San Francisco.
We can testify from our own experience to the racism that pervades San Francisco City Hall. 2018 marks 20 years since City Hall put all the Black contractors out of business, contractors who trained countless young people, even those coming out of prison, to work high-paying construction jobs and who kept hundreds of Black families thriving from a family member’s construction wages. Blacks have been almost totally locked out of the construction industry ever since.
Then, in 2010, a project that could have restored the careers of Black contractors and workers, the rebuilding of the Bayview Library, was put out to bid. When our company, Liberty Builders, was low bidder, City Hall under Gavin Newsom found a way to replace us with a white contractor, who cost city taxpayers $2 million more than our realistic bid. Unable to do the work, he had to hire Liberty Builders’ key workers to get the job done.
Had Liberty Builders been allowed to perform that contract, our other business, the San Francisco Bay View newspaper, would be thriving, not begging for help on GoFundMe.
Since then, locked out of opportunity after opportunity, assaulted by gentrification, foreclosures, evictions, incarceration and the pressure that leads to early death, all but a tiny fraction of a once vital and influential Black community has been forced out of San Francisco.
When you feel your back against the wall, you come out fighting – and “Black people and people of justice,” as Fred Jordan described the real progressives of San Francisco, are itching to come out strong to elect London Breed our mayor on June 5. Never before have we seen the Black unity and solidarity with allies that has coalesced behind London.
Black women are stepping into power, bringing their beauty, brains and incomparable organizing skills to the competition. Can they make a difference against the odds? Ask Oprah Winfrey. Ask Alicia Garza, San Francisco’s own member of the team of three Black women who won hearts and minds worldwide with Black Lives Matter. Ask the Black women of Alabama who overcame enormous odds to defeat Roy Moore and keep a racist pedophile out of the U.S. Senate.
On June 5, we’re going to vote like Alabama!
San Francisco progressives have nothing to fear from a Black woman mayor named London Breed. London will govern with enough love and compassion to reduce the race and class disparities that progressives deplore. And the best way progressives can ensure that is to join us in her campaign. The New York Times, citing the city’s “long history of discrimination against blacks,” calls this election a “battle for the soul of San Francisco.”
We can win it and we will! Join us soon at the London Breed for Mayor campaign headquarters, 2352 Market St., Suite B, San Francisco 94114. Meanwhile, endorse London on her website, www.londonformayor.com, and contact her campaign by email at email@example.com and phone at 415-LONDON1.
Dr. Willie Ratcliff and Mary Ratcliff, Bay View publisher and editor, can be reached at 415-671-0789 or firstname.lastname@example.org.