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Ray of hope 

Breaking news: Systemic racism exists in SLO County, like, officially!

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Most of us already knew that, but there were some in positions of power who didn't—like SLO County Sheriff Ian Parkinson, who was very concerned last year about law enforcement in SLO County getting flak over systemic racism that didn't exist: "We're being trashed over this issue of something that is truly not here in that form," he said at a July 6, 2020, North County Tea Party Meeting.

He later told New Times that racism "unfortunately, exists everywhere," as a way of clarifying the statements he made at that meeting. But it's not really about overt racism, is it?

It's about how the social and institutional structures that created and maintain our country are embedded with bias that gives one race (hint, hint: whites—more specifically white males, but that's a topic for another column) an upper hand over all the other races. It's so implicit and such a part of society's infrastructure that it's easy not to see, especially if you're white—and that's what Parkinson didn't believe.

But now, for some reason, Parkinson finally gets it! Or at least, he said he gets it.

"We cannot possibly understand what others have experienced in their life, but we should be willing to listen and care," Parkinson wrote in an introduction to the Sheriff's Office Unity Committee's report on Systemic Racism and Microaggressions in San Luis Obispo. "Within the conclusions of the report, I find very powerful indicators of systemic racism. ... I invite everyone to join us in improving and correcting our shortcomings to enhance inclusiveness of all."

Wait, what? Is this the same conservative, obtuse Parkinson from the last decade? Or did the liberals clone him and stick an imposter into the Sheriff's Office to talk about enhancing inclusiveness? I'm confused and waiting for a clandestinely recorded video of Parkinson speaking to the Republican Party of San Luis Obispo refuting everything in the report as a farce.

But for now I'm going to bask in this solitary but absolutely shimmering ray of hope that people can actually become convinced of the truth, even if it flies in the face of the belief systems they adhered to.

I wonder what it would take for some of the Lucia Mar Unified School District's conspiracy-convinced parents to smell the truth. A small—but piercingly loud—group of parents, who also happen to be associated with the effort to recall three school district board members over COVID-19 votes (No surprises there!), is convinced that a new social and emotional learning program is a spawn (pawn?) of critical race theory!

The curriculum, which Lucia Mar approved over the summer, covers topics that every student needs to be a decent, fully-functioning human. Things like treating others kindly, recognizing bullying, and self-managing anger and anxiety.

But Lucia Mar school board member Dawn Meek called the curriculum a "Trojan horse" of "social justice critical race theory" that lets "the bad guys into our classrooms." Yeah, why should we be teaching kids to treat others with kindness and respect? That's total progressive bullshit! Who are the bad guys again? Is it people without anxiety and anger or people who are nice to others?

What about equity and sharing? Also bullshit, according to concerned mother Jeanette Holt, who threatened to "take action" against New Times if her point of view was presented as racist.

I guess she didn't realize that New Times journalists allow readers to think for themselves. Who, me? Oh yeah! I'll tell readers if I think someone's a racist. But this is an opinion piece! Anyway, she was very worried about being called a racist and also about this new curriculum's ties to equity and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Equity is not equality. Equality is great. Equity is 'your friend doesn't have what you have, and that's not fair.' You have to share, no mind that you worked for what you got and your friend probably didn't," said Holt, whose parents must not have taught her that sharing is caring or that lots of people have lots of things that they didn't work for.

Generational wealth is a great example. Remember not so long ago when Black people and other folks of color were expressly not allowed to own property?

Concerned parent Christin Brittingham put it this way: "I'm a white human and maybe there were some slaves in my history. But that doesn't mean I have a slave and that I should [feel] bad for it."

OK, but our ancestors' actions impacted everything that led to today.

And equity is not equality. Holt got that part right. Equality means that people get the same things. Equity means that people start from the same place in line—you know, rather than someone cutting in front of everyone else who is in line, not allowing others to move forward in the line, or beating/killing others who are moving too fast in the line.

But what does social and emotional learning have to do with any of that?

It's just a hunch! Even though the district said that critical race theory isn't taught.

"There's nothing in writing," Holt said about teachers only being allowed to teach what the district says they can teach.

Actually, I believe there is. It's called a contract. Δ

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