Letter to the Editor: The Message in Mill Valley

I am deeply concerned with the message the Mill Valley City Council’s decision to disregard the DEI task force’s recommendations sends to the community at large(“Mill Valley City Council Clashes With Equity Task Force,” Feb. 24). I am even more disturbed that the council does not see the absolute necessity and urgency we have to take responsibility for the ways in which the people of color in our community do not feel safe, welcome or seen.

The public outcry and vast number of Mill Valley community members asking, demanding, imploring the council to show up for ALL the people of Mill Valley appears to have fallen on deaf ears–or worse–apathetic, misinformed and shamefully disinterested minds and hearts. The council claims to need more time to research and consider the issues of equity and inclusion and how they need to be addressed in Mill Valley. From my perspective it sounds like they understand the issues exist and simply don’t feel a particularly urgent need to address them because they do not impact council members or the majority white community directly.

I am saddened that the council is unable to see the reality that when anyone in a community feels oppressed or excluded the entire community is impacted. Systemic racism, which exists in Mill Valley and is being supported by council decisions and lack of immediate action, should be a priority issue in Mill Valley’s wheelhouse. As a member of our white majority community I am disgusted with the lack of meaningful response in taking the DEI task force recommendations seriously.

In a statement made by one council member it was claimed that the issues brought to light by the task force were of great importance. In fact, it was stated somewhat begrudgingly that the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion have been at the top of every meeting’s agenda for months. I’m afraid that putting these issues at the top of the agenda is a hollow gesture if it is not followed up with meaningful and open discussion with the task force and the community. Citing the rules and agreements that excused the council from direct conversation with the task force does not exonerate its members. In fact, it shines a shameful light on how unwilling the council is to move forward with the task at hand: Opening dialogue on issues about race, racism, equity, inclusion and the need for our white majority community to become aware of the ways we intentionally and unintentionally discriminate, oppress, and exclude our black and brown community members.

I would have hoped that after the Mayor’s comments about Black Lives Matter not being directly relevant to our community that the council would have opened its eyes and ears to the ways in which we as a community and they as public servants to that community need to expand, learn, and embrace the dire need we have to change a system that holds others down simply for the color of their skin. These conversations can be uncomfortable and as a white female trying my best to listen and learn I know that at times my implicit bias and racism come through. It has been a shock to me but it has also been the very thing that has made my need to educate myself imperative.

The shame I feel when I notice my own unintentional bias and how it feeds into the system of racism is uncomfortable but I have come to realize that it motivates me to do better. I invite each of the city council members to feel the discomfort of not acting immediately to take meaningful steps towards change that includes all of us here in Mill Valley. The absence of diversity, equity and inclusion for some has a negative impact on us all.

Nina Vincent , Muir Beach

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