Letter to the Editor | ‘I Speak as an Ally’

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | SouthPasadenan.com News | Victoria Patterson, the protester who was spat on in July

I’m here to support Fahren and London and the Black Lives Matter movement nationwide. I’m here to support the cause. I believe in this. I speak as an ally.

I’ve lived in South Pasadena for over twenty-five years. In these problematic and chaotic times, I’ve become estranged from my birth family for various personal reasons, among them, their politics and racism, which I can no longer abide.

Troubled, I found myself walking a great deal: I told Fahren I felt like I was Forrest Gump. That’s how I first came across London and Fahren, and why I decided to be proactive and validate my beliefs, instead of simply wallowing in grief and despair.

I’d been protesting for over a month when, on July 8th, Fahren and I were coloring in signs. Fahren went to check on one of her signs. A man with an extensive criminal record named Joe Richcreek, bearing a rock and a sharpened drumstick, approached Fahren and became hostile. Alarmed, I went to them. I began to record him on my phone. He grabbed my phone. Fahren put her body between us to protect me. He spat in my face. The spit also hit Fahren.

The South Pasadena Police reluctantly filed a report, and only after Fahren insisted. Two nights later, he threw a rock at Fahren, calling her a “f’ng bitch”–and he hit her with the rock.

Without help from the police, she tracked Richcreek down, and he was finally arrested, though not for the spitting assault–only for throwing a rock at Fahren–  and he was released soon after. The police reports for these two assaults are full of inaccuracies and biases, especially against Fahren, making her –the victim–sound like the suspect. Even more egregious and malicious, Corporal Wise asserted that he tried to contact Fahren by phone–a lie, as her phone record proves.

If you haven’t watched the video of Corporal Wise’s arrest of Joe Richcreek, please do:

Imagine first responders at the scene of an accident rushing to comfort the person whose car struck a pedestrian, while the pedestrian lies bleeding on the street. This is what happened to Fahren.

Corporal Wise’s racism manifested in his white distress, white suffering, and white victimization. He arrogantly and disingenuously invalidated Fahren and London. His simplistic and presumptuous proclamations, his “correcting”of London, and his pompousness as he explained away racism and their experiences.

Racism doesn’t rely solely on individual actors; the racist system is reproduced automatically. To interrupt it, we (white people) need to recognize and challenge the norms, structures, and institutions that keep it in place. But because these systems benefit us, racially inequitable relations are comfortable. We have to get racially uncomfortable and be willing to examine the effects of our racial advantages.

Richcreek came back for a third time the afternoon of July the 19th, riding his bicycle to the corner of the BLM protest with a pipe lodged under his arm, and he threatened a protester. When the police arrived, they had to be briefed by five members of the community on the two prior incidents of hate crimes, never mind that they occurred a block from their police station and City Hall.

Where would Richcreek be if his skin were darker?

He clearly has problems, but he’s free to harass people, and the fact that he isn’t suffering consequences for his lifetime of antisocial behavior speaks to the exact white privilege that the BLM protests address.

Performative politics abound in South Pasadena. I’m angered by the so-called progressive council people who sit on the dais and proclaim “All Black Lives Matter,” yet they have failed to recognize or acknowledge the Black lives that were attacked at our crossroads, and continue to be threatened.

What happened to Fahren and me is happening to people, and mostly women, all over the country who have the courage to stand up to the status quo.

White allyship requires acknowledgment of a historically racist framework. Authentic antiracism is rarely comfortable. It is a messy, lifelong process, and it requires action.

Predominantly white neighborhoods like South Pasadena have a historically racist framework. Did you know that South Pasadena was a “sundown town?” Until 1964–a mere 55 years ago–black people coming into town to work or visit for the day had to leave before sundown or risk arrest. An alarm would sound–giving a warning.

Every time we deny this history or pretend it doesn’t exist, or we ignore its lingering manifestations–like what happened to Fahren–we reinforce this racist framework.

We also allow for a limited worldview, a reliance on deeply problematic depictions of people of color, a comfort in segregation with no sense that there might be value in knowing people of color, and an internalized superiority. We miss out. We validate the problem, and I want to be a part of the solution.

Victora Patterson, South Pasadena resident

 


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