Where Do We Go From Here?

June 1, 2020

What am I supposed to write about today? This site started when my partner and I first moved to San Diego as a means of self-motivation to explore the local food scene. It evolved into hospitality news and event promotion. Now, what do we talk about? We have reached a period in our collective history when it seems completely obtuse to write about anything other than the systemic injustices that have led to our nation's divide and the tumultuous situation we are now in. How do we make sense of it and where do we go from here?

Before we dive into this and I start getting messages like "what is a food blogger doing writing about serious issues," I should tell you all a bit about myself. SanDiegoVille has been its own entity with no information about me or even my name posted anywhere on the site because I always wanted it to be its own brand, an entity greater than myself. As Brandon Stanton, the founder of the great Humans of New York, recently said, "I’ve always wanted the creation to outgrow the creator." But in order to bolster my credibility, I believe it necessary to lift the veil a bit.

Mom & I, 1982
My name is Henry and I am a 38 year old white man that grew up in a rural town in New Jersey in what was then a conservative Republican family (I have since fixed that, although I do not align with any political party). Reagan was like a god in my house growing up. Racism was far too prevalent in rural New Jersey during this time. Racism was not shrouded nearly to the degree it is today. I always knew it was wrong but it was all too normal. 

I eventually did well enough in school and sports to go to college and was fortunate to get into Columbia University in New York City. The required core curriculum coupled with living in one of the most diverse metropolises on the planet opened my eyes to so much. Through learning about different cultures, comparative histories, the development of our cities and societies, and even the evolution of war, my perspective was greatly widened and deepened. 9/11 occurred about 10 miles from where I was living and forever changed me. Eventually, I graduated, earning a degree in political science with a minor in history. I am the third person to have graduated college in my family - immediate, extended, and ancestors included. I went on to earn a juris doctorate degree from Seton Hall School of Law, working full time while taking classes at night. During law school, I met my partner of now 12 years while studying human trafficking and modern day slavery abroad in Africa. So, I am educated in the politics and history of our country and have a doctorate in the laws of our land. I am not merely a "food blogger."

I am also the personification of white privilege and grasp that I will never truly understand the extent of how this has affected my life. This privilege is the result of generations of genocide and enslavement, exclusionary policies and laws beneficial to one race over another, institutionalized prejudice, redlining of our nation's history, and a society built upon complacency, silence, and apathy. As anti-racism activist Peggy McIntosh explained, white privilege is "an invisible package of unearned assets." White privilege is not earned. It is not deserved. It was taken with violent force and injustice. It was stolen. This must be acknowledged.

Mainstream media is not doing its job.
Enough about me. The prolonged backstory leads to my first point: I was fortunate to grow through education, experiences, and relationships. To effectuate a change in this country, we need to understand that violence and force will not alter a person's conditioning. Attempting to restore peace and order by using the same violent authoritarian measures that caused the upheaval will only bolster the resolve of protestors and cause more violence. I've seen all too few examples of police officers placing down their weapons to join protestors in their mission to end this cycle of disproportionately discriminate law enforcement and institutionalized racism. We need the police to join the mission rather than demand the populace succumb further to their will. What happened this weekend in Flint, MI, is the perfect example, an example touted by the current president while simultaneously demanding governors to "dominate" protestors. 

I attended yesterday's protest in downtown San Diego from around 4:30-8pm. The reason I ventured downtown, in addition to my complete support of the peaceful protests behind the Black Lives Matter movement, is because I was watching the limited local media coverage of the protests and heard the reporter state that protestors were throwing rocks at officers. When the reporter was pressed on if she saw this herself, she responded that she was merely reporting what the police stated. To me, that is irresponsible journalism and I felt a duty to see for myself what was occurring rather than taking the word of a mouthpiece of the authority. 

Souvenirs from the downtown San Diego protest -
pepper ball ammunition 
During the time I was at the downtown San Diego protest on May 31, 2020, demonstrators were peaceful, except for the occasional tossing of plastic water bottles. Police, on the other hand, stood outfitted like military agents with full riot gear, helmets, gas masks, and assault rifles, backed by tank-like vehicles. Protestors begged them to kneel in solidarity, but they stood like ravenous robots waiting to be unleashed. Any time a water bottle was thrown, which was much rarer than the media will lead you to believe, the police reacted by shooting powder-filled balls from high velocity paintball-type guns. Flash grenades filled with a noxious substance that burned the eyes, nose and throat were also thrown into crowds. I do not at all condone throwing water bottles at police officers or anyone, but I've also been to countless concerts where water bottles have been thrown without damage to anyone or anything, let alone someone who is fully armored. Such a disproportionate and potentially lethal reaction is unwarranted. 

The law enforcement in this country continues to escalate this situation, which is bolstered by the one-sided reporting by our media outlets. We are living in unprecedented times and the simple fact is those who are protesting during the day are not the same people taking to the streets after dark to loot and riot. We, as a people, are tired of it, but we mustn't be led into a great divide by those in power. Among the rioters are likely to be other disenfranchised members of society reeling in anger following a traumatizing year highlighted by a global pandemic, required quarantine, and a crippled economy where only the wealthiest benefit. Yet this is not their movement or their time to hijack the message.

We must begin leading with compassion and the goal of unification. We need to establish a non-violent legal system where peaceful law enforcement is the first reaction, with a political foundation built on basic human and economic rights. We cannot stand silent as our fellow human beings are killed in the streets. We cannot stand silent as our fellow humans are starving and losing their homes due to government imposed restrictions on their ability to earn an income. We must hold one another accountable for our actions. Stop letting the powers that be divide us. We the people have far more in common with one another than we likely have with the politicians making decisions for us. This is not a partisan issue.

We all should start by focusing on our own spheres of influence. If each person does this, the world will be a better place. Please let’s be nurturing to each other. Most of us want the best for our nation and our families. Start small. Share information, correct misinformation and bigotry, and let’s educate each other in a positive, supportive way. Also, this should be a safe place to ask if we don’t understand. Racism is present in our own circles. Let’s start there.