The recent revelations about Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli are the tip of a dirty and wretched iceberg that is long overdue to be destroyed.
Sonoma County has never had its “Me Too” reckoning. Let this finally be the moment. This county has a deep history of sexual assault, rape and torture of womxn, beginning with the widespread enslavement of California native people, and the enslaved Black people forcibly brought here by the Southern slave holders from Missouri and elsewhere who “founded” this county.
While these atrocities are not unique to Sonoma County, the crushing plantation system and “good ol boy” white supremacist power structure has allowed generations of rape to continue without consequence, along with the acquiescence of white women who uphold this patriarchy, oppression and sexual violence.
Members of the Pomo, Black, API and Latinx communities have shared stories of rape and sexual assault by law enforcement, sustained in a cycle of generational trauma by their mothers and grandmothers. There is a complete erasure of information on the rape and sexual assault of Mexican, Mam, Triqui, Mixteco and Central American womxn working in the vineyards.
There are stories shared among womxn in whispers, warning of certain vineyard owners with a penchant for rape. Stories and unsolved mysteries spoken in hushed tones about the activities at the Bohemian Grove, and the complicity of law enforcement and elected officials.
Nasty tidbits about oppressive structures like the Sonoma County Alliance, the Farm Bureau, and the dirty intersection with elected officials, through money, influence and power. Dominic Foppoli’s “defiance” and refusal to step down is a reflection of the entitlement and privilege he enjoys as a white, cisgender, heterosexual, conservative male in Sonoma County.
It is a reflection of the absolute lack of accountability for white men, the bloated hubris of those whose wealth comes from exploited labor, and think nothing of the conquest and destruction of their economic fiefdoms. Sonoma City council member David Cook also refused to step down after he was arrested for the sexual assault of a child, instead letting his term expire. Social media was awash with apologists and business continued as usual with his vineyard management company.
Large numbers of undocumented womxn work in hotels, restaurants, vineyards, as domestic servants, and the men who control their pay and personal safety know they will not report sexual assault for fear of exposure.
I decry the rape and abuse of the womxn who came forward to bravely tell their stories. I also want to state that there are many womxn whose stories have never been heard, and who can not come forward because their survival depends on their silence.
To the white power structure, who made deals, clinked wine glasses and enjoyed political and economic privilege and power with Dominic Foppoli and all the other rapists in Sonoma County yet to be revealed: You are all Guilty. Your pearl-clutching statements of shock and disgust are performative and offensive to survivors.
Let this house of cards fall. Let all the names be revealed. Let all the survivors come forward. Let’s make rapists afraid again.
D’mitra Smith is the former chair of the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights. To have your topical essay considered for publication, write to us at [email protected]