After much discussion among the leadership of CRJ, Bob Gordh produced this excellent history and description
The Committee for Racial JusticeCRJ originated in response to a single disturbing racial incident.
On May 4, 2011, an African American member of the Santa Monica High School wrestling team was held against his will and chained to his locker by two Caucasian teammates while there were chants of “Slave for sale” and a wrestling dummy had a noose around its neck nearby. This racially charged incident and the District’s slow response were the catalyst for the formation of the Committee for Racial Justice (CRJ). Our 11-person
Steering Committee consists of parents of Santa Monica students, community members and clergy. CRJ membership is open to all. We welcome all people of good will to attend our workshops and join our working committees.
CRJ is committed to combating all forms of racial injustice, whether overt or covert, whether individualized or systemic, that may take place in
our community. While we know that racism affects many cultural groups, we are especially drawn to focus on the severe impact it has on the African
CRJ has been active in 3 main arenas.
Since early in its existence, CRJ has been active in 3 arenas. First, we have produced a series of workshops on various aspects of the subject of race. We do not, of course, view race as a natural category but rather as a social construct imposed by racism. Racism has had an enormously complex and destructive history in our country. Likewise, it persists today in enormously complex and destructive ways. In common with anti-racists everywhere, we see racism as much more than just a conscious attitude. It can also be an unconscious bias. Moreover it is much more than just attitude, whether conscious or unconscious. It is also an insidious pattern
embedded in the systems by which our society is organized. It manifests itself, for instance, in segregated housing patterns, in enormous racial disparities in our distribution of wealth, in the use of predominantly Eurocentric materials in our history classes, in racially discriminatory policing, etc. The study of race and racism is multi-disciplinary, involving the fields of history, sociology, political science, psychology, economics, religion, literature and other arts, and more. There is so much to learn!
Hence, our monthly educational workshops, which typically feature noted guest speakers, as well as time for discussion and dialogue.
And of course, there is so much to do to undo racism. A regular feature of our workshops, therefore, is to inform our attendees of a variety of opportunities for action.
Second, CRJ works continuously to advocate for Black students in the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District. We persistently push for policies and practices that will benefit Black students. We do not espouse “colorblindness.” We believe Black students face specific challenges in this society, which is so pervaded by racism, and we believe, accordingly, that they deserve various kinds of support that are designed especially for them. For example, we believe that they deserve courses that are specifically about Black history and culture, as opposed to mere equal access to predominantly Eurocentric courses. It is worth noting that CRJ avoids a binary approach to thinking about race. We do not, for instance, divide individuals simply into racists and non-racists. Instead we recognize that we are all at some point on a continuum. Similarly we see institutions like the Santa Monica schools as being at some point on a continuum. Our goal is to push them to the highest point possible. We believe that not only Black students but all students will benefit enormously as a result. CRJ has created a document called “A Vision for Schools where Black Lives Matter” to guide us in this work. During the 2017-2018 school year we will be campaigning specifically to establish a support group for the parents, grandparents and guardians of Black students for every school in the district.
Third, CRJ works to oppose many forms of injustice in the nation’s criminal justice system: racial profiling and race-based harassment, excessively harsh sentencing laws, mass incarceration, police shootings of Black citizens, discrimination against individuals exiting incarceration, etc. On the local level CRJ, along with the Santa Monica/Venice chapter of the NAACP, the Westside ACLU and the Peace and Justice Committee of the Santa Monica Unitarian Universalist Church, participates in Coalition for Police Reform. It is the mission of this coalition to eliminate racial profiling, as well as the use of unnecessary force toward Black citizens, by the Santa Monica Police Department.
CRJ faces new challenges, seizes new opportunities.
CRJ’s July, 2017, workshop was visited by 5 members of white supremacist hate groups, 3of them wearing bandanas as masks. Throughout the meeting they interrupted and made racist and anti-Semitic remarks out loud. The August meeting was besieged by at least 30 white supremacist disruptors, who tried to invade the hall but were blocked at the door by stalwart attendees. Our research indicated that over 300 neo-nazis were mobilizing to descend on our next workshop. CRJ spearheaded a de-escalation and public safety program for CRJ and its anti-racist allies. Several hundred CRJ supporters turned out for the September 10 workshop. They were fortified by a plan for resistance, the presence of numerous clergy, and a large police contingent. Only a handful of far-rightists dared to show up, and the meeting proceeded peacefully.
Not only are white supremacists attempting to disrupt our workshops. They are also spreading misinformation about us. We have therefore taken up the additional projects of safeguarding our workshops and of sharing our message more broadly. We shall not be moved. We are committed to growing and expanding our anti-racist work in Santa Monica and invite others to join and participate with us.
Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!