The prevalence of online neighborhood groups through websites such as Facebook or Next Door are popular ways for residents in the Santa Cruz Mountains to communicate about traffic delays, events happening in the area, list places offering services and more. Several weeks ago, one Boulder Creek resident, Jenny Bradford, saw an opportunity to create a Facebook neighborhood group to invite a conversation and dialogue concerning the concept of “white privilege” and ways to address the issue of racism locally and nationally.
Bradford launched the Facebook group “San Lorenzo Valley/Scotts Valley Coalition against Racism” and to date, there are 315 members, all who live within the SLV and Scotts Valley area. Bradford explained the decisive moment she realized some action needed to be taken was when she and her husband, who is African American, were driving home from San Jose when they spotted a trailer with a racial slur written on the side.
“Racism isn't something you ignore. It’s not something you hide from your kids. You address it in the most public way possible,” Bradford posted in the group. “I want other children to know our mountain doesn't support hatred or racism. They are paying attention. This group isn't going to be for the faint of heart…..These are hard topics but the work is important,” Bradford continued.
Bradford, who is a mother to five children and has lived in Boulder Creek for four years, said she wanted to create this group to connect with like-minded individuals and to start a dialogue with people who want to learn more.
“I think when you live in rural environments that are mountainous in nature these online groups become useful when wanting to connect with your neighbors,” Bradford said.
Since the group started, members have posted links to articles or videos or started conversations about “white privilege”, ways to stop racism, and how to navigate talking about difficult topics related to racism.
“My belief is the only way racism will be combated is the dismantling of white privilege or getting people who are white to acknowledge that privilege,” Bradford said. “I am trying to reach people who have not had certain experiences in life, of no fault of their own, and give them information so they understand their privilege and how it contributes to racism.”
For Angie Pennington, of Scotts Valley, joining the Facebook group allowed her to realize there is much room for growth when it comes to learning about the day to day racism that People of Color face.
“I was devastated to hear stories of overt racism in our own community,” Pennington said. “But with this group, at least we have a place where we can learn together, take a stand against racism, and support People of Color who may have been dealing with racism their whole lives.”
According to the American Community Survey from 2017, San Lorenzo Valley is approximately 89 percent white and Scotts Valley is approximately 87 percent white. But according to Bradford, who is half white/half Mexican, she is starting to notice slowly people of color moving into the San Lorenzo Valley area as housing becomes more expensive elsewhere.
On Dec. 1, members from the Facebook group gathered to distribute “Flyers against Hate” to businesses in the Valley who wanted to participate. The “flyers”, which can be displayed in the window, state that all races, genders, religions, sexual orientations are welcome.
“This is not a political debate, this is a humanitarian issue,” Bradford said.
Pennington was one of the organizers asking businesses to put up the flyers stating all people are welcome.
“I feel this group's message is especially important right now since hate speech/crimes have been on the rise in our country. By taking the time to learn about racism (both explicit and implicit) that People of Color face, we are more likely to be part of the solution by encouraging a welcoming community for all races and cultures,” Pennington said. “It's not always easy to self-reflect and have discussions about racism and white privilege but it is an important step towards having empathy and creating needed change.”
Other ways Bradford has organized efforts to continue her goal of hoping to spark conversations and educate the community, include documentary viewings and starting a book club for members to participate in.
“Every day people are posting, it really has been very civil,” Bradford said. “I am going to see how the group evolves, I want people to connect and talk about things….It’s about starting that dialogue even if it is uncomfortable at times.”