Deja vú—the feeling that we’ve been here before. What’s caused it this time? Well, the Sonoma County Alliance has been called out, yet again, as a racist organization. Ten years ago an independent expenditure committee, headed by the Alliance, put out a mailer for David Rabbit that was against making Sonoma County a sanctuary county. The overall tone of the mailer was not of a healthy discourse on the topic, but more along the lines of how violent illegal Mexicans would be rampaging and murdering all the white people who are simply out for a nice picnic. In other words, it was a race-baiting mailer that would make Donald Trump proud.
When we add in the fact that many industries represented by the Alliance—such as agriculture, construction and hospitality—are the ones that actually employ high numbers of undocumented people, the true reason for the mailer is obvious. It was made to appeal to people’s base instincts.
Not only did then-Sonoma-County-Alliance-president Lisa Shaffner refuse to dialogue about how the mailer might be problematic, she accused naysayers of simply “liking to fight.” David Rabbit, showing a complete lack of leadership, told the Press Democrat, “It is what it is.” In fact, few community members repudiated the racist nature of the mailer. None of the Alliance organizations that were contacted responded, let alone gave up their memberships. Lisa Wittke Shaffner has gone on to bigger and better things, including sitting on the Sonoma County Board of Education.
The self-proclaimed “Latino Leaders of Sonoma County,” Los Cien, even spoke against the Alliance’s recent tone-deaf letter. Nevermind that 10 years ago they had nothing to say against the racist mailer that targeted their very own community.
Trying to get Sonoma County to act against racism 10 years ago was an exercise in futility, even after articles in the paper, radio interviews and as a Bohemian cover story. If you were silent 10 years ago, it’s time to do some soul searching as to why. That’s what anti-racist work is all about.
Laura Gonzalez is the former president of the Sonoma County Latino Democratic Club.