Santa Cruz Good Times

Feb 05th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Undoing Racism

news-2Local coalition works to overcome racism in Santa Cruz County

For nearly two decades, community organizer Mireya Gomez-Contreras sat in meeting rooms, attempting to help alleviate problems of poverty and social inequality in Santa Cruz County, only to find herself debilitated by the racial dynamics of the spaces she worked in.

“I’d often think about how I was the only person of color in the room,” she says of her Hispanic heritage, “and would have a hard time relating to white people on any level.”

Gomez–Contreras, who is the program development director for the Community Action Board, an organization that focuses on helping low-income residents move out of poverty in Santa Cruz County, says that, at that time, she thought of racism as an interpersonal problem, one that was a product of prejudice. That all changed, however, in January 2011, after she attended a two-and-a-half-day training called “Understanding Institutional Racism,” hosted by the Santa Cruz County Community Coalition to Overcome Racism (SCCCCOR).

During the event, Gomez-Contreras was introduced to the idea of racism not solely as a matter of personal prejudice, but as a systemic-level problem—one that is ingrained in the fabric of public institutions such as education and law enforcement. Once she realized that, she says everything changed.

“Before, I used to think that white people must know what they are doing, but are acting like they don’t,” she says. Now, Gomez-Contreras says she understands how unaware white people are of their privilege or that racism even exists. She says it was a tremendously empowering realization because it transformed her from someone consumed with the idea that others had a problem with her ethnicity into a person with a strategy for tearing down the barriers to productive dialogue. “I now come to the ‘table’ fearless of speaking, and with a better understanding of how to work with others,” she says.

Such realizations are the first step in combating racism, according to members of SCCCCOR, who dedicate themselves to eradicating institutional racism in Santa Cruz County. “A huge problem, especially in a liberal area such as Santa Cruz, is that people don’t realize that racism exists,” says Hannah Garcia, a SCCCCOR staff organizer. “So a big part of our work is raising awareness, and then building coalitions to fight racism in various capacities.”

SCCCCOR began in 2007 shortly after Santa Cruz City Councilmember Tony Madrigal voiced concerns about racial profiling by law enforcement at a city council meeting. The group has spent the past four years since organizing training sessions on institutional racism and building coalitions that focus on changing public policies in the areas of education, immigration, law enforcement and social services.

In 2010, they received a $150,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation to fund their work and in the past year-and-a-half, Madrigal, who is also on the SCCCCOR steering committee, says they have organized six training sessions like the one Gomez-Contreras attended and have expanded their coalitions significantly. Currently, SCCCCOR is working with more than 20 organizations and has numerous volunteers.

“It’s slow, hard work,” Madrigal says. “But it is necessary because it requires the involvement of a lot of people to overcome the racist impacts of public and private institutions.”

It is also work that Madrigal says is increasingly important given the stressed economic climate, stating that a principal product of institutional racism is the disparity in which people of color are affected by economics.

A recent PEW Research Center report confirms this assertion. The study, titled “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics,” found that nationally, the median wealth of white households is 18-20 times that of Hispanic and Black households (respectively), marking the largest wealth disparity in the last quarter century between whites and the two largest “minority groups” in the United States. It also found that the recession has taken a far greater toll on people of color than whites. Between 2005 and 2009, median wealth in Black and Hispanic households fell by more than half and by only 16 percent in white households.

Such economic disparities, and the host of social problems they invite that are particularly prevalent in Santa Cruz County, underscore a variety of problems between communities of color and public and private institutions that dictate how society functions. For SCCCCOR members, says steering committee member Rev. Joe Brant, success is largely measured by a change in those numbers.

But the first step, he says, is comprehension.

SCCCOR will be holding an “Understanding Institutional Racism” training on Oct. 14. For more information visit

Comments (9)Add Comment
written by vivariva, September 13, 2011
america offer opportunity to make dream came true, why some people get lost in the process many times is their own fault.
I know a mexican woman who is 35 years old, she going for her child number seven as we speak.
why someone has to procreate so much is beyond my comprehension, not in this times , not with this economy, it doesn't make sense.
if you ask her opinion about life, she ether give you some divine excuse for what she doing or she blame other for not '''helping her enough''' it doesn't matter how much taxes we pay, there isn't going never be enough at this rate.
the list goes on, they just think of the moment but never see the big picture to see the future of these kids they are bringing, are they going to became good or bad people? are they going to became bitter and resentful or will they be able to grow and learn and be successful?
people don't want to change their way, they just wants other to change for them.
written by Chris Arends, September 12, 2011
Race is one of those difficult topics that Santa Cruzans, despite our self-proclaimed liberal bent, refuse to address. We observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, patronize local taquerías, teach our children to eschew the N-word, and vote Democrat, but we explode with indignant fury whenever the shallowness of our commitment to diversity is exposed.

The preceding comments represent a miniscule subculture of cryptoracism in this town and can be easily dismissed; the real threat to true multiculturalism is the majority of the bourgeois white population in Santa Cruz, who, while well-meaning, approach the issue of race from a position of extreme ignorance.

For them, 'racism' was something their grandparents did, an artifact of history, as anachronistic as the white hoods of Klansmen and segregated drinking fountains. It's the 21st century after all, and we have a black (well, biracial) President. Racism couldn't possibly still exist, except perhaps in the minds of a few unreformed individuals like the aforementioned commenters.

I applaud the efforts of SCCCCOR; it's about time someone woke the comfortable from their slumber.
written by SteveC, September 10, 2011
Nora Hochman, September 10, 2011
"Many of the posts here are predictably reactionary and defensive."

That`s what happens when any group is targeted for systematic demographic replacement(genocide)..
No one calls the Tibetans or Papua New Guineans "predictably reactionary and defensive" for defending their group`s existence against hostile colonizers do they? So why do you so-called "anti-racists" only condemn us whites for defending our group`s existence?

"those who hold power and money are overwhelmingly white."

Firstly,that overwhelmingly white money and power is wielded by the same genocidal anti-white Establishment that is engaged in a demographic war of elimination against white Americans via the imposition of mass immigration and "assimilation" which you so-called "anti-racists" enthusiastically support.So you support a genocidal regime but then out of the other corner of your mouth whine about the racial make-up of that regime.

Funny priorities you have there,no?

Secondly,"fighting White Privilege"? We can't have whites dominating their own governments and corporations in their own countries, because that would be "racist" and we must have affirmative action to fight it.

Of course no one says Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Africans, etc should not dominate the government and the private sector in their own countries.

You so-called "anti-racists" only combat this kind of "privilege" in traditionally white countries.

You say you are jew.If some group claiming to be "anti-racists" said to you that Israel should be forced to accept millions of non-jews into Israel on an ongoing basis and that the jews of Israel should be ordered to "assimilate" with those non-jewish immigrants,AND that they should not be allowed to be pro-jewish in any way such that the jews of Israel would be forecast to become an extinct life-form within a few decades,would you say that person was being anti-jewish Yes/no?

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

written by Nora Hochman, September 10, 2011
Many of the posts here are predictably reactionary and defensive. Let's take a small step sideways and try again: We can split the semantic hairs between multi-racialism and multi-culturalism, but the constant theme, the drumbeat if you will, is that those who hold power and money are overwhelmingly white. Entitlement is sometimes a feature of that economic/societal/racial power and it's not always pretty.

For sure, bigotry is all around us: it is multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-racial. Our country was founded on bigotry and social superiority. Remember the massacre of native people, here long before the Mayflower landed? And then there was the taking of land, a brazen taking, from Mexico.

So, when people of color call out the hurts and challenges and realities of that power, it doesn't serve any purpose to say "oh yeah, well others are racist too". That conversation gets us nowhere, in my view. Instead, it's the quiet listening, the attempts to understand another's reality and experience, the acceptance that there may be a truth for them that is not my own experience, that makes it real and important nevertheless.

Gomez-Contreras was simply and directly stating that experience. It's her truth and her reality and that's good enough for me. I expect that should I express my alienation in this community of being Jewish with not much understanding of what that means ("you don't look Jewish!), Ms. Gomez-Contreras would probably ask questions of me and try to understand what I was talking about.

From there, we'd be off and running to common ground, the ground I most like to be on with others.
written by Tom Leggett, September 10, 2011
Everyone talks about this RACE problem and says that this RACE problem will be over when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries. Everyone says the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” that is, intermarry, with all those non-whites. According to the UN, this is genocide. They claim they are anti-racist, but what they are is anti-white. Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.
written by SteveC, September 09, 2011
White people can never disprove they are "racist",their very existence is seen as a form of "racism" by the so-called "anti-racists".

They say all things white must become "diverse" or it is "racism".

They say there should be no white countries,no white communities,no white schools,no white sports,no white social gatherings etc,etc.

The anti-whites give us whites two choices:Accept white geNOcide or you are a "racist".

Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.
written by Bo Sears, September 08, 2011
Mireya Gomez-Contreras' comments are instructive inasmuch as they provide an understanding about the shift in community organizing from multiculturalism to multi-racialism. Of course, multiculturalism arose from pluralism, a doctrine imposed on the USA around the turn of the 20th Century, which morphed into multiculturalism in the sixties and seventies, and which is now giving way to multi-racialism, a divisive and dangerous doctrine.

When Gomez-Contreras says, "Before, I used to think that white people must know what they are doing, but are acting like they don’t,” she is laying out the leading doctrine of multi-racialism.

Multi-racialism is a kind of war by all against all, and she will rapidly discover that this isn't a problem between the diverse white American peoples and all people of color. She will find that some Hispanic-Americans have serious issues with Asian-Americans, and that some Hispanic-Americans are busily block-busting some African-Americans in the most extreme way possible in Los Angeles. There's something healthy about looking at one's own demographic before slandering all the diverse white American peoples.

The other problem with her comments is that they reflect most of the elements from the Anti-White Narrative which you may read about at our on-line syllabus:
written by Marcus Tullius, September 08, 2011
Beginning in the second paragraph Gomez-Contreras starts equating "racism" with "white people". Her imposition the term "racism" on the diverse White European American peoples never lets up.

Gomez doesn't slander Chinese people in China as having "yellow privilege", and call them unjust and "racist" for having a desire to maintain the integrity and very existence of their culture and people.

Gomez doesn't slander Mexican people in Mexico as "institutional racists" because they place strict limits on non-Mexican participation in Mexico in order to protect their unique culture.

But Gomez has no problem slandering and defaming the diverse White European American peoples for doing the same thing.

Gomez and this whole project are just another sad instance of the AWH, the Anti-White-Narrative.

No matter what problems a non-White demographic has, it's ALWAYS and ONLY "Whitey's Fault".

You say you are "anti-racist", but what you are is anti-White.

Anti-racism is just a code word for anti-White
written by gomez, September 06, 2011
another thing that produces poverty is having more children than one can afford with enough education to succeed in life, a life fill with dignity and healthy self esteem. Racism is only one branch of the whole tree of life, there is also something called self sabotaging and everybody should be aware of their own power when it comes to achieving dreams or not. Nothing happened just because life itself is like a canvas where we can create the life we want.
start by breaking your limitations!!!!!!! Stop blaming others.

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


On the Run

Is there hope for California’s salmon?


Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey

Monday, Feb. 8, is Aquarius new moon (19 degrees) and Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey (an imaginative, intelligent and vigilant creature). Monkey is bright, quick, lively, quite naughty, clever, inquiring, sensible, and reliable. Monkey loves to help others. Often they are teachers, writers and linguists. They are very talented, like renaissance people. Leonardo Da Vinci was born in the year of Monkey. Monkey contains metal (relation to gold) and water (wisdom, danger). 2016 will be a year of finances. For a return on one’s money, invest in monkey’s ideas. Metal is related to wind (change). Therefore events in 2016 will change very quickly. We must ponder with care before making financial, business and relationship changes. Fortune’s path may not be smooth in 2016. Finances and business as usual will be challenged. Although we develop practical goals, the outcomes are different than hoped for. We must be cautious with investments and business partnership. It is most important to cultivate a balanced and harmonious daily life, seeking ways to release tension, pressure and stress to improve health and calmness. Monkey is lively, flexible, quick-witted, and versatile. Their gentle, honest, enchanting yet resourceful nature results often in everlasting love. Monkeys are freedom loving. Without freedom, Monkey becomes dull, sad and very unhappy. During the Spring and Autumn Period (770 - 476 BC), the Chinese official title of Marquis (noble person) was pronounced ‘Hou,’ the same as the pronunciation of ‘monkey’ in Chinese. Monkey was thereby bestowed with auspicious (favorable, fortunate) meaning. Monkey years are: 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016.  


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of February 5

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Wine and Chocolate

West Cliff Wines gets its game on, plus a brand new chocolate cafe on Center Street


How would you stop people from littering?

Teach them from the time that they’re small that it’s not an appropriate behavior. Juliet Jones, Santa Cruz, Claims Adjuster


Dancing Creek Winery

New Zinfandel Port is a ruby beauty


Venus Spirits

Changing law could mean new opportunity for local spirits