My wife and I both grew up in Culver City and stayed here because of the diversity. When my wife’s parents passed away, she sold their house in 1988 to an interracial couple. When my parents passed away, we sold their house to a non-white family. If people can afford to live in Culver City it doesn’t matter to us where they are from, their race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation. We added onto our home in the early 90s rather than move away from Culver City because of its diversity and the schools, police and fire department etc.
Therefore, it surprised me when I read the proposed Resolution against Racism on the Council’s calendar originally on June 14 and now continued to June 17. I didn’t think it was possible to write one I would find offensive, but it is chronologically dysphoric and makes no acknowledgment of the progress that Culver City has made in the last sixty plus years since the Civil Rights movement.
I have written a proposed revision of the Resolution which I have previously sent to you and also attaching. I had little time to write it, but I did, and I think it improves it. I wish I had more time to make it better, but the public was given little notice.
To paraphrase Professor Stephen F. Ross (Law Professor at Penn State Univeristy, former clerk to Ruth Bader Ginsberg and graduate of Culver City High School), most progressive politicians pursue a 3-step hierarchical strategy: (1) avoid doing anything that makes you look un-progressive; (2) find things to do that make you look progressive; (3) only if consistent with 1 and 2, actually do something that achieves genuine social progress.
Professor Ross pointed out that President Biden floundered among the progressives who showed up at the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, and only won the Presidency because African American leaders like Jim Clyburn had lived long enough and suffered enough to be concerned only about (3).
He states that “[t]o be fair to modern progressives; this has always been true of what used to be called Liberals. We wouldn’t have enacted a Civil Rights Act in 1964 if liberal House Jud[iciary] Chair Emmanuel Celler, focusing on (1) and (2), had his way with legislation that never would have passed; instead, he had to be bailed out by Bobby Kennedy and moderate, pro-civil rights Republicans (yes, they used to exist!).”
The passage of this Resolution as drafted will meet the first two tiers of Professor Ross’ hierarchy, but will fail miserably with the third tier, do something that will actually achieve genuine social progress. It will have the opposite effect, creating only the negative shaming, rather than promoting of social justice. It will destroy the coalition of people needed to maintain and continue progress.
My concern is that rather than helping provide a solution, this resolution will deepen the divisions between people. It fails to acknowledge the progress that Culver City has made and continues to strive for. Instead, it reads like an indictment when Culver City has made great strides in social justice since I was born less than two months before the Supreme Court handed down the Brown v. School Board of Topeka case.
As you grow older, what you lose in acuity you gain in perspective, and the Resolution as drafted fails to illuminate with love and purpose, but is a shaming document that divides.
I suppose I would not be so upset if I didn’t feel this document will only make progressives feel better about themselves, while having a harmful dividing effect. Everyone on this Counsel before passing this resolution as drafted, should read two books. The first is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkinson which details the 70 year silent migration of Blacks from the Jim Crow South to the northern and western states and how they met housing discrimination when they arrived. There is no doubt there was systemic social injustice for which the effects continue to exist today. My revised version does not in any way diminish those facts.
The other book is Dark Money by Jane Mayer which details how a few allied plutocrats have essentially hijacked American democracy, using their money not just to compete with their political adversaries, but to drown them out. Politics on the right is now not about policy, but pursuing the Dark Money agenda, and they have been very successful. Dark Money politics was built on the bones of the John Birch Society.
So why does this proclamation strike me as the other side of the coin of Dark Money? It is not intended to illuminate and uplift, but just like the Dark Money right want to ‘own the libs’, this proclamation paints Culver City with a broad brush and fails to recognize that Culver City unlike neighboring communities did not flee in the sixties when white flight took off in Inglewood, Crenshaw and other adjacent areas.
If you want to look into history, consider the practice of block busting where white people sold their houses in mass because one African American family moved in. Culver City instead resisted that and said, ‘let’s give integration a chance.’
And so, sixty years later, we are a fairly integrated and diverse community, we have diverse public schools and 40% of our City Council members are African American, and one is an immigrant. We are a community united in advancing social justice and diversity. The resolution as drafted is devoid of that perspective and condemns the City and its population without context or heart.
This is why I hope you will read my proposed revision which I am attaching hereafter. I don’t think it is perfect, but within the confines of time and lack of notice I and the public received, it was the best I could do. I am happy to continue to work on it with the Council and have contacted Vice Mayor Lee to discuss it with him.
Ronald E. Ostrin
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A RESOLUTION OF THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF CULVER CITY, CALIFORNIA, ACKNOWLEDGING THE RACIAL HISTORY OF CULVER CITY.
WHEREAS, the City of Culver City (“City”) acknowledges that discrimination, segregation, and police abuse have existed throughout the history of the United States and therefore within Culver City for many years, WHEREAS, the United States and Culver City has made progress in overcoming the badges and vestiges of racism but that progress is not complete, nor unbroken; and, WHEREAS, Culver City claims progress, but not perfection, in creating a diverse and vibrant community, but recognizes that its work for racial equality is not finished, but is to be continued; and, WHEREAS the City of Culver City chooses love over hate and recognizes that the work of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement is unfinished and that America has become complacent,
WHEREAS, the City recognizes that racially restrictive covenants and deed restrictions before 1948 were adopted and enforced on private property that prohibited African Americans, other people of color and certain religious faiths from housing and land ownership within Culver City; and –
WHEREAS, the City shall advocate for and support measures to remove such language in deed and covenant restrictions regardless that they are now unenforceable because they are offensive; and
WHEREAS, the City acknowledges the fundamental injustice, inhumanity, and unkindness of these practices; and,
WHEREAS, the City apologizes to the people of all races, creeds and colors who have suffered under discriminatory and harmful policies and practices for the wrongs committed against them and their forebears; and,
WHEREAS, the City expresses its commitment to continue the work towards moral racial justice;
WHEREAS, the City advocates for a Truth and Reconciliation Process to be established or assigned to an existing City Commission, Board or Committee to bring awareness to the City’s history of de facto and de jure racist policies in its governmental bodies, policing, and educational systems; and,
WHEREAS, the City advocates for the complete history of Culver City and the United States be taught in Culver City schools, and requests that the Culver City Unified School District develop a module in its history curriculum that teaches the history of America’s racial inequities and if the City of Culver City participated in those elements of systemic racism be included in its curriculum; and,
NOW, THEREFORE, the City Council of the City of Culver City, DOES RESOLVE:
(A) The City acknowledges, apologizes for, and condemns all racially motivated, discriminatory, or exclusionary aspects of the City’s history, and deeply regrets the pain, hurt, and suffering such policies have caused;
(B) City Council and staff will continue to engage in individual and collective work to understand bias and systemic racism;
(C) The City will continue to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in its access to City services, programs, and facilities, and will stand up to bigotry, hatred, intolerance, racism, and violence; and
(D) The City unequivocally rejects racism in all its forms and is committed to working towards building an anti-racist Culver City where people of all races and cultural backgrounds are welcome to live and prosper.