Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 22, 2020

Making space for disenfranchised voices

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

So for those of us that are not white but are also not Black it’s easy to fall into the trap of not recognizing our own anti-other POC and anti-Black prejudices.  But as we know from various video recordings of racist encounters on the internets, POC can be just as culpable as white people.

If you’ve ever watched City Council meetings you’ll know that not a lot of people, in general, speak regularly at public comment.  And for those that do it typically trends older and whiter than Alameda’s general demographics.  It’s not often that you find young people or BIPOC attending and speaking publicly so when you see it, it’s notable.  What we’ve (hopefully) learned in these past few weeks since the protests have started is that we need to do a better job in our community to center the voices of those whose voices tend to get disenfranchised the most: youth and BIPOC who have done a commendable job pushing for social justice in their own community.

Oh, BIPOC is Black, Indigenous, People of Color.  Before you start asking why…Google exists, use it.


While we (hopefully) now know that we need to make space for BIPOC and youth voices, it is particularly important that we don’t silence those voices particularly when they’re saying things that are uncomfortable to bear witness to.    This has not happened in the past at City meetings.  We have two notable incidents of people of color in positions of authority on the dais questioning and/or shutting down commonly disenfranchised community members because their voices are not, traditionally, considered voices of authority to be listened to and engaged with.

We have the example of the Rec and Park Commissioner (now member of the Open Government Commission), who probably identifies as API (Asian Pacific Islander), questioning the authority of a Black historian and instead elevating a historically white led organization, the Alameda Museum.

But the most notable example is that of Alameda’s former Mayor, who identifies as Mexican-American, who ordered the microphones be turned off only two times during her four years as Mayor.  Once for a group of young Filipino-American Alamedans.  Once for a Black man.

When called out about this behavior by another, white, member of the City Council:

Her response to Jim Oddie’s comment was that she didn’t “appreciate” a white man pointing out racial biases to her as she is a “Mexican woman.”  Trish Spencer then pulled out that she didn’t think it was “appropriate” for a white man say that after he responded that he was “call[ing] it like he [saw] it.”

We have to do better when it comes to the leaders that we allow to sit at the dais in either an elected or an appointed capacity.  Ethnic representation means nothing if those leaders continue to maintain the status quo.

For those we have a backlog of decisions and discussion to dissect, we should be using that to determine fitness for these positions of power in our community.  For those that may not have minutes and public records to scrutinize, then we need to press them to answer tough questions about all issues and see which candidates and organizations they have supported in the past.


  1. How do we solve a problem when a major segment of the population is not allowed to discuss it?

    Comment by Bart — June 22, 2020 @ 10:15 am

  2. Your argument is very similar to Biden’s to African-Americans -“if you ain’t voting for me you ain’t Black!” That Trish’s behavior somehow betrays her ethnicity -cancelling her racial heritage. That’s quite a charge…to deny family, language, culture and life experience just because you disagree with her politics.

    Since we’re talking about race…Many voices acknowledge longtime prejudice in the AAPI community against other minorities. Are you also qualified to speak on the subject of racism without acknowledging this?

    “ Asian Americans “will never fully understand the Black experience” because they “continue to benefit from the ‘model minority’ myth and our historic proximity to white privilege,” the statement reads in part.
    “We acknowledge the deep roots of anti-Blackness within the AAPI community and commit to an ongoing and necessary process of healing those wounds,” the statement reads, referring to the acronym for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — June 22, 2020 @ 12:16 pm

    • Oh, BTW, I bet you were so sad that your dear leader’s little rally didn’t go so well.

      Comment by john doe — June 22, 2020 @ 2:50 pm

  3. I’m very concerned about those co-opting a movement for their benefit to claim “me too,” when they were not an ally of said movement before. To my knowledge, Trish Spencer has never expressed support for Black Lives Matter or certain other minority groups (Lesson 9 is a good example), and she also has a history of butting heads with the Alameda Police Department during her tenure has mayor, which largely stemmed from her husband’s DUI arrest. She tried to frustrate APD by suggesting the creation of an “oversight body” to police the police in 2017 – councilmember Jim Oddie very recently made this remark: “I know [the idea of a police commission] came before us a couple years ago, and I thought it was a bad idea because I thought it was motivated by retaliation by the former mayor for her husband getting pulled over by the police or a crime of driving under the influence.”

    Now with the George Floyd and Mali Watklins incidents in the news, it was as if there was an “ah ha” moment where Trish realized she could use her “oversight body” idea from years ago as evidence that she was an ally of POC all along to capitalize on the Black Lives Matter movement.

    Homelessness, poverty, and housing are also issues that disproportionately affect minorities. Trish Spencer used her influence as mayor, and as former mayor, to support Measure K (hurting rent control), to vote against the minimum wage increase (hurting retail workers), and her costly Measure B shenanigans (dressing up as a crab and dancing by the tunnel to try and deny convalescence care for medically frail homeless seniors).

    My comment is starting to sprawl, so I will state my takeaway point here – I have never really seen Trish Spencer do anything to help elevate the voices of the disenfranchised and the vulnerable, but I have seen her take advantage when it fits her preexisting agenda.

    Comment by JRB — June 22, 2020 @ 12:22 pm

    • It was a Southern Democrat (Howard Smith D-Va) who inserted “because of sex” – the basis for last week’s Bostock v Clayton Co, Ga. SCOTUS decision – into Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

      “The other person in this story was Martha Griffiths, a lawyer and a representative in Congress, from Michigan. Also a Democrat, like Smith—but a Northern Democrat…..She had the idea to add “sex” to Title VII, but she saw an interview where Howard Smith said he was thinking about doing it, and she immediately thought “I’ll let him be the one to do it. He’s going to bring all his Southern Democratic colleagues.”

      Assume the truth of all your points about Spencer and her motivations. Martha Griffiths probably felt something similar about Smith. She didn’t let that stand in the way (in our case, going on three years now from 2017, if a police commission one believes that creating a police commission is the right thing to do).

      Frank Matarrese has changed his view of things as reflected in his letter to the Council prior to the special meeting last week:

      “I was not a fan of having an Alameda Police review committee and thought that the Council could drive change, but have come to see that a justice commission as a significant step to institutionalize protecting everyone’s civil rights.”

      And, yes, you could say that Spencer did not propose specific language to create this or that type of commission (and her idea might have been weighted heavily towards encouraging enhanced law enforcement (the “crime commission” idea)) such that all one had to do was vote yea or nay, but you haven’t totally convinced yet that her referral did not create the opportunity (in 2017) for discussing the types of measures under consideration now.

      Comment by MP — June 22, 2020 @ 2:18 pm

      • MP – Frank Matarrese’s letter specifically says “to institutionalize protecting everyone’s civil rights” and nothing about getting tougher on crime. The climate of 2017 was very different – break-ins were on the rise, bikes stolen every day, people complaining on NextDoor and in the Alameda Sun. Rather than getting into too many details of what was going on in 2017, I will just quote local historian Rasheed Shabazz (coincidentally, or perhaps not, one of the individuals mentioned in today’s blog post who was silenced by the former mayor), who submitted a letter to the city council expressing his concern: “Since the motivation for this committee appears to be based on a perceived increase of crime in Alameda… If this proposal was for Police Oversight Committee, or if this Committee was being assembled to address racial profiling or bias-based policing, I would likely ask you to support this; however, as it is written, this looks like it would be a fear-based citizens council that could contribute to racial profiling.”

        Your rebuttal basically boils down to – “okay so maybe it really was a crime commission… but it could have accidentally become something else.” It doesn’t work that way.

        Comment by JRB — June 22, 2020 @ 2:50 pm

        • I don’t disagree with most of what you are saying, and I am not necessarily trying to “rebut” your points in the main. But at the end, you say, “but it could have accidentally become something else.” It doesn’t work that way.”

          What is “it” that must work “that way”, and not another?

          Would it have only been by “accident”, as opposed to, e.g., choice, that the other 3 or 4 councilmembers could have managed to transform “a bad idea because … motivated by retaliation by the former mayor for her husband getting pulled over by the police,” into a not so bad idea?

          Comment by MP — June 22, 2020 @ 3:32 pm

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