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Local NAACP branch points to racist graffiti as evidence of racism in SLO County 

The NAACP SLO County Branch says racist graffiti in Santa Margarita Community Park indicates a larger issue of microaggressions and racism in the county.

click to enlarge HATE SPEECH Local activist group says racist graffiti found on a play structure in Santa Margarita Community Park in December 2020, is evidence of racism within the community. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NAACP SLO COUNTY BRANCH
  • Photo Courtesy Of The NAACP SLO County Branch
  • HATE SPEECH Local activist group says racist graffiti found on a play structure in Santa Margarita Community Park in December 2020, is evidence of racism within the community.

Ryan Alaniz told New Times, he took his 4-year-old son outside to play at the Santa Margarita Community Park on Dec. 23 to get some energy from being outdoors.

Alaniz, a SLO County resident and associate professor in sociology at Cal Poly, said his son requested that he stand with him at the top of the slides. When he got to the top Alaniz saw graffiti on the inside of the play structure that said "FUCK BLM" and "hail Hitler" alongside a racial slur and a swastika symbol.

Angered by the graffiti, Alaniz said he wasn't surprised to find it.

As a Central Coast native and a professor in the area for 10 years, he said while the community overall is made up of good people, there are still many individuals who don't believe systemic racism exists.

"And yet it keeps coming up over and over in the culture, in institutions, and in organizations that these small microaggressions show up again and again," Alaniz said.

These individuals, he said, continue to perpetuate a culture of superiority and inferiority more by their inaction to systemic racism than overt thoughts and acts.

Alaniz reported the graffiti to the SLO County Sheriff's Office through an online form on Dec. 27 and notified the Sheriff's Office commander. He received a response from the commander about the incident, graffiti removal, and a case number.

The local NAACP branch released a report after the incident, stating that SLO County has a history of bias-motivated hate crimes in the form of graffiti vandalism, which is an indicator that racism is active in the community.

According to the California Department of Justice's most recent annual report regarding hate crimes—crimes motivated by a victim's race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability—San Luis Obispo County had seven reported hate crimes in 2018, as well as eight offenses, eight victims, and six suspects. A majority of the crimes occurred in the city of San Luis Obispo and one occurred in Morro Bay.

According to SLO County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Tony Cipolla, the office has its own report management system that contains stats about "hate crimes/bias." When deputy takes a report, that deputy can mark it as a hate crime with a check box.

Cipolla said that the state requires monthly reports on hate crimes even if there were none—which is the same for all law enforcement agencies in the county.

"Time and again, hate speech creates a hostile environment for people of color in our community and leads to violence," President of NAACP SLO County Branch Stephen Vines said. "The pattern of reported hate crimes increases in San Luis Obispo County is significant and concerning. There is no doubt that many incidents go unreported."

"Denying racism exists is passivism, or passive racism—the most insidious factor that contributes to American racism, according to Standford scholars," he continued. "The first step to healing is admitting a problem exists." Δ

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