Michael’s ‘mob’ talk
I have been reflecting on Michael Winkler’s recent open letter regarding the Arcata City Council’s decision to relocate the statue of William McKinley from the Plaza. I was at that meeting, having marched from the Plaza to City Hall with 200 others, and I have been at other meetings in the past where this subject has come up. Michael seemed appalled at the tone of the council meeting, where an engaged and loud crowd were expressing their opinions.
While he has pointed fingers about the heightened tone of this meeting, I would like to offer that it is a lack of leadership in this matter that lead to that evening’s tone and temper. If voices felt like they were being heard, there would not have been marching in the streets. The Arcata City Council failed to act for decades, one decade of which Michael has served as a councilmember.
I usually respect Michael Winkler’s approach, even if I don’t always agree with the positions he takes. I met him shortly after moving to Humboldt County – as a writer, I interviewed him for an article about his dedication to waste reduction and that he only disposed of one trash can’s worth of trash in a year. I cannot, however, abide by the temper in his open letter.
Michael, you are a leader in this community. You are above calling the opposition names like “lynch mob” (historically a term used to describe a white community stringing up a black man). You are above needlessly invoking trigger words like Donald Trump and Tea Party. You still have an opportunity to encourage unity and compromise that will move our community forward. Where can this statue be preserved off of the Plaza? That is a question worth answering well.
I know, Michael, that you care deeply about the community and the planet. I hope you choose to live up to the calling.
Apologize for that
In his “Open letter to Arcata Mayor Sofia Pereira” (Union, Feb. 24), Michael Winkler asserts that the citizens who turned out for the Feb. 21 city council meeting behaved like a “lynch mob” or “vigilantes.” Funny, I didn’t notice anyone rushing the dais where the councilmembers were seated.
Strange indeed to hear a white man employ the term “lynch mob” to characterize a group of engaged citizens that included indigenous peoples and students of color. Mr. Winkler deserves censure for his frivolous use of the term which describes the brutal reality of lived history for African Americans. The use of terms like “lynch mob” and “mob” and “vigilante” is inflammatory language, which is not protected speech, because of its potential to cause harm (inciting real mobs to inflict violence).
Now that whites have amassed all the power, we hear repeated calls for “civility”. But what to make of this thin veneer of “civility” belying Humboldt County’s history of massacres, rapes, vigilantism, and yes lynchings, that characterized Humboldt County’s response to Native Americans 160 years ago? (Just a “blink of an eye” in historical terms.) Where was the civility then?
As Civil War historian Kevin Levin said, “‘Lynch mob’ is wrapped up in our very dark history. Taking that language and applying it to anything (else)… it’s a way of dismissing that history.”
Mr. Winkler appears to have taken a page out of the playbook of the GOP. When Republican members of Congress rushed to defend Donald Trump and Roy Moore against sexual assault allegations, they latched on to the term “lynch mob” to silence their critics. Just google the words “lynch mob” and GOP, and you’ll find that they have a history of misusing the term.
And now we have Mr. Winkler jumping on this sorry bandwagon. Where are we? The Deep South of Humboldt County? Where white folks and inanimate statues fear the noose? Please.
Michael Winkler owes an apology to POC and every engaged citizen who cared enough to show up for the Feb. 21 council meeting. If he refuses to apologize, he deserves to be censured by the rest of the council. This inflammatory language has no place in our town or on our City Council.
A ‘mob’ it wasn’t
Some have likened us, the impassioned crowd that attended the Arcata City Council meeting last week, to a mob. I even saw the words “lynch mob” used to describe us in print. Wow, really? Did they realize it was Black History Month? Maybe the people invoking those images weren’t paying attention to the regular events occurring in our area. People getting together to reflect on a people’s history that includes actual lynch mobs.
I saw emotional moments, especially with Josiah’s death being unresolved. Local people of color and their compassionate allies commemorating Black History amid a contemporary backdrop of selective justice, unfair wage gaps, racist trolls on social media, punitive immigration actions, and disproportionately cruel incarceration rates. It is our white privilege that makes the discomfort of facing those historical and present-day injustices optional for most of us. This was the context that the Arcata City Council received a passionate plea from marginalized community members, whose ancestors loved this place and then lost it to brutal conquest and who were asking for relief from the burden of being confronted by symbols that open old wounds whenever the visit the Arcata plaza. Yes, the message was delivered in angst. I was there. I spoke out. The anger in the room made me uncomfortable too, but knowing the context, I felt it was justified. And I can see how someone who missed the context could mistake the righteousness in those voices for something else. Mobs are motivated by hate. If that is what some saw, I disagree. That was love delivered with righteous anger.
To compassionate people of privilege in Humboldt County: I respectfully assert that in the age of Trump, good intentions are not enough. History is repeating itself on our watch. Ask yourself: what would I have done if I was of age when people of African descent were being fire-hosed, beaten, and attacked by dogs for disrupting white culture with non-violent direct action in the name of equal justice? Would I have stayed silent when the Wiyot were massacred during their world renewal ceremony on Duluwat Island? If you feel you would have acted, then act now. Get curious. Listen. Resist becoming emotional when you experience anger directed towards you as you learn how to be an ally to people of color. Allowing space for that anger is the first step. Even though historic injustice may not be our fault directly, we have a responsibility to engage that history and respectfully make our voices heard in the present, which is both a gift and an opportunity.
This is Wiyot land. Josiah’s death is unresolved. The undocumented in our community are under threat. The McKinley statue is a symbol of historic injustice that does not belong at the heart of the Arcata we know and love. Removing the statue is a small gesture to the descendants of the survivors of a dark time in our local history. It’s is the right thing to do. Let’s re-home it and replace it with something better.
Remove the council, not McKinley
The “Politically Correct” mob demanded that president McKinley’s statue be removed, after being on the Arcata Plaza for more than a hundred years.
Allegedly, another president, Harry S. Truman explained in 1945 to General MacArthur that “political correctness is a doctrine fostered by a delusional minority and promoted by a sick mainstream media which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of sh_t by the clean end.”
If this is true, before the “Politically Correct” mob meets again, hopefully they will wash their hands very carefully and find something constructive to do with their time.
If anything needs to be removed from Arcata, we should look no farther than City Hall.
Wade DeLashmutt, Sr.
How does this help?
In her letter (Commendation and Healing, March 7) about the removal of the McKinley statue, much of what Tamara McFarland said about the history of unfairness towards Native Americans rang true. However, given a difficult decision, I commend Michael Winkler in calling for a vote by the citizens of Arcata to determine the outcome.
Mayor Pereira had said about placing the issue on the ballot; “I think we lose the nuance of people’s perspective on it.” How is nuance served by four (albeit our representatives) deciding the vote for all on this important matter? A number of those speaking for the removal during the meeting said they didn’t want it to go to a vote. One talked about the tyranny of the majority. Actually, in history, that statement has been used in talking about the minority being protected by the Supreme Court, not as an excuse to suppress the vote.
In Fhyre Phoenix’s letter (Scoreboard Shaming) he stated that the number at the meeting calling for removal was about 150, and those clearly against just one. Well he’s wrong there because I spoke up against removal, although I didn’t defend McKinley, but wanted the addition of a plaque to put the statue in context.
Also against removal, and defending McKinley (and in particular his Civil War service) was Owen Moore, who, unfortunately, was repeatedly interrupted by the crowd. More importantly, how many more residents of Arcata could have expressed their views through a vote? Phoenix’s efforts, and the way he went about it, are to be commended also. But not all of Arcata’s citizens are activists. They still deserved a vote.
In both McFarland’s and Phoenix’s letters Dan Hauser was attacked for his letter in response to the council’s decision. I would just say that, speaking of history, Arcata has a lot to thank Dan Hauser for: the Arcata Marsh for starters, as well as all his public service over the years. He is worth listening to, and worthy of respect.