Mill Valley Chamber’s Blog Post Prompts Outrage

Although Mill Valley residents continue to call for a permanent Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee, the city council refuses to create one. As if to prove how desperately the city needs the commission, the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce posted a racist photo to accompany an innocuous blog post.

The Chamber’s story detailed Marin’s possible move into the orange tier this week. Oddly, the photo depicted two Black women dressed in orange prison garb. Not exactly what I picture when informed the county achieved a lower Covid-19 rate and may graduate to a less restrictive tier. If you want to celebrate orange, you could choose a picture of a persimmon, a pumpkin or maybe even something more obscure, like an orange.

Jim Welte, director of membership and community engagement for the Mill Valley Chamber of Commerce, eventually replaced the photo with slices of an orange, apologized for his previous selection and explained the insulting image was from the TV show Orange is the New Black. Then he made an irrelevant political statement by saying he’s “a massive fan of the show and its work to give sunlight to the need for criminal justice reform and the treatment of incarcerated women.” In addition, he made excuses about working late at night and being lazy.

Welte missed the point, at least initially. In his first apology, which took him three days to post, he failed to mention that he hurt people, although many folks explained their feelings in the blog’s comments section. Finally, a full five days after the original post, he amended his remarks to address the harm he caused. Still, it’s difficult to unring the bell.

“It’s outrageous!! How do I explain this to my black children? It’s getting increasingly difficult to be proud to live in Mill Valley,” Alfie P wrote in the comments section below the blog post.

I’ll bet it is, Alfie, since this is just the latest blunder by a Mill Valley community leader. During a city council meeting in June, a week after George Floyd’s death, a resident asked what Mill Valley was doing to show that Black Lives Matter.

“It is our council policy that we do not take action on issues that are not of immediate local importance,” Mayor Sashi McEntee responded.

How many more racist gaffes will it take before the mayor and the rest of the city council appoint a permanent DEI commission? Clearly, Mill Valley needs it.

If you’ve experienced race-based discrimination, volunteer therapists of color are offering free 16-week Racial Trauma Support Groups for Marin residents and workers of color. Contact Cesar Lagleva at 415.846.3789 or [email protected] for more information.
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Nikki Silverstein
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