OC Condemns White Lives Matter Rallies
By Dianne Anderson
Rumors on the street before last weekend’s KKK-sponsored White Lives Matter rally in Huntington Beach was that Tory Johnson’s Black Lives Matter organization would show up with guns, looking to start trouble.
It’s precisely those kinds of lies that can cost more lives.
He was so concerned that he contacted the Huntington Beach police department to ask what kind of protection they could provide BLM participants. Instead, he was lectured about how “All Lives Matter,” and asked why he wanted to be a leftist with the BLM movement.
The question of protection was never answered, even as racist fliers proliferated locally and in cities across the nation calling for white nationalist hate groups to coordinate and converge at rallies.
At this point, much of what “TJ” sees is not unfamiliar. He grew up in Marion, Indiana.
“I was very familiar with the KKK,” he said. “We had the last public lynchings in the United States. Public Enemy put our courthouse on the album with the picture of three Black boys hung, and the whole city turned out to watch that.”
Not knowing the history of Huntington Beach, he said he was struck by the beauty of the area, which was supposed to be his happy place. Since he arrived in 2012, he said it’s been one police or skinhead-related event after another.
“Eleven times the Huntington police department has tried to charge me with something, and eleven times this police department has failed,” he said.
He feels a big part of the problem is that prisons are a breeding ground for hate, and whites are not rehabilitated once they get out. The system forces them to link up with white supremacists.
As the Black Lives Matter fight continues, he feels that some groups are jumping on the BLM bandwagon to promote their own agenda. No matter the struggle or sexual orientation, he said he always supports equality, but BLM must be about protecting Black people, who remain the most targeted and killed.
On their website, the Southern Poverty Law Center describes White Lives Matter as a “racist response to the civil rights movement Black Lives Matter. It is a neo-Nazi group that is growing into a movement as more and more white supremacist groups take up its slogans and tactics.”
Alison Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of the Orange County Human Relations Council (OCHRC), said the White Lives Matter rhetoric is a divisive tool to instigate hate.
“I think it’s a false narrative, what we need to do is resist that temptation to finger-pointing and blaming. There’s nothing that says that white people can’t be anti-racist,” she said.
The commission’s 2020 preliminary county data shows a tenfold increase in hate incidents against the Asian American community, but Blacks remain consistently the highest targeted group.
“The Black population is very over-presented in the data,” she added. “Generally speaking, year in and year out our Black population that we get the most reports from and about hate crime and hate incidents,” she said.
Before 2016, she said there was a downward trend in hate, but it was followed by a dramatic increase during the last four years locally and across the nation.
Some say hate can’t be legislated, but Edwards said standardizing how hate crime data is collected and reported is needed because not all agencies participate in data submission.
“Our police departments provide data for us, but it’s voluntary,” she said. “A statewide effort that helps standardize what we report so we can actually compare across jurisdictions is really important.”
On April 27, she invites the community to an online dialogue on race relations in the county, which expands on work with the annual National Day of Racial Healing. That series runs through the fall.
Recently, OCHRC also launched a 12-month equity training program where company employees can train and bring back what they learned to share with others toward a more equitable workplace.
“It is frustrating, exhausting for people to feel that we take steps back when so many people have fought and died for the steps to be made,” she said. “History has taught us that change is not always linear. We have to persevere through those times.”
Martha Daniel, Orange County United Way board member, said their Cultures United project started when several board members came together a year ago to plan ways to address the cultural gap in community understanding.
With all that happened last year, with George Floyd, and Black Lives Matter and increased Asian hate, she said they wanted to spark conversations, and raise awareness of cultural experiences.
“We may be different in our cultures, in our skin tones and different in some of our thoughts, but it does not eliminate the humanity that we want the best for our children, to be able to feel safe in our community,” she said.
Since then, they held four virtual events. Hers focused on the Black community and featured several local activists including Star Simmons, sickle cell anemia and education advocate. The 100 Black Men of Orange County talked about their successful programming for Black youth, and Mayor Letitia Clark spoke of growing up in the county where her parents struggled against real estate discrimination.
Daniel, who has lived in the county since 1976, said despite cultural differences, there’s no reason to shy away from the conversation.
“We didn’t hesitate to talk about discrimination, about Black Lives Matter, we talked about our cultures,” she said. “The intent was to begin to have dialogue. Our children are integrating into the environment, but still, are they truly accepted, and are we all truly accepted?”
She was also surprised to hear stories from the Vietnamese community that reminded her of the deep South. One young woman said the pain cut so deep when they left Vietnam that she couldn’t talk about it.
She thought about her own mother.
“My mother couldn’t even talk about her lifetime and some of the hatred that she went through in Mississippi, it was too painful. Those are things you sit back and say there’s a similarity. There were some very eye-opening conversations. We will continue,” she said.
For more information on upcoming events, see https://www.ochumanrelations.org/
Southern Poverty Law Center designates White Lives Matter as a neo-Nazi hate group,
To learn more about Orange County United Way Cultures United series, see https://www.unitedwayoc.org/events/cultures-united