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Building an Inclusive Community in Times of Fear and Distrust


This is the fourth post in a series on police violence, race, safety and cities. See more at the end of this post.


All Americans have been affected by the relentless stream of abhorrent violence in our nation. We are well beyond the ability to gloss over these events — there are just too many, and they are too horrifying to ignore. Our nation is suffering from a large, gaping wound reminiscent of the 1960s.

During that era, my parents were active in el movimiento, working alongside Cesar Chavez to advocate for better living conditions, educational and job opportunities, community safety and cultural acceptance. Together, they participated in social clubs that organized concerts and dances and civic clubs that promoted citizenship and community involvement. They were also active in Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, in the Mayfair neighborhood, where Cesar’s first organizing efforts began. Our family’s home on Sunset Avenue was in the center of this activity.

My parents dreamed of and worked toward a different future than we are experiencing now. That scale of the violence against Black people we are now seeing is truly shocking. And the type of anti-Latino rhetoric and immigrant scapegoating that we’ve heard from the most-prominent voices should have been silenced long ago.

The answer is not what San Jose witnessed six weeks ago, when people came out to attack Trump supporters attending a rally in San Jose. Nor is it vicious attacks on public safety officers who often work alongside our community advocates to make conditions better for all.

Instead, I maintain a vision of what I was raised to believe and what I experienced growing up in San Jose: that our cities can be places of peaceful coexistence and opportunity for people of all backgrounds.

I grew up on the east side and benefited from a good education. Unlike many youth of today, I was able to get my first job at 15, working at the Emporium retail store at Eastridge Mall, and attend San Jose State directly after graduating from high school. I had the opportunity to work my way through school with a series of temp-agency jobs at high-tech companies like Atari and Rolm, as well as paid internships with the City of San Jose and NASA/Ames Research Center.

The doors that were open for me then are now closed for too many, particularly for young people from communities like the one where I grew up. Residents of those communities are grappling with the stress of rapid growth, and struggling with rising costs and greater uncertainty.

But the growing violence and distrust we are witnessing across the nation is like a cancer in our cities. It cannot be ignored or allowed to grow. It must be diligently combatted and, if not fully eradicated, forced deep into remission.

We must work together to get back to what San Jose was when my parents arrived here and when I was growing up: an inclusive community that provides the path to job opportunities and upward mobility.

This is what SPUR works toward: laying the foundation for economic prosperity for everyone, making it affordable to live here, building great neighborhoods, giving people better ways to get where they need to go, and supporting local government so it has the means to provide the services we all need and benefit from.

To this end, SPUR has a long history of developing and advocating for public policies that make our communities better. My own commitment as SPUR’s San Jose director is to take that mission and expand the conversation to include a broader set of partners and neighborhood leaders.

My city has changed. As all cities do. They are like living bodies, constantly evolving, never frozen. And sometimes that’s hard to accept. We may not like the changes we see, and they may not always be fair.

But I joined SPUR to do what I can to carry on my parents’ work, alongside many others, to build an inclusive community. I know that San Jose is a great place to live. So many people who have relocated here talk about feeling welcome and easily connecting to professional and civic networks.

That’s great. But this must also be a place where all individuals — not just those with means — feel safe and economically secure, where families can establish roots and live to see their children be successful. That’s what San Jose offered to me and my family, and I hope it’s what the city can mean for the next generation.


Read more from this series:

What's Going On: Tensions, and Solutions, in a Changing Oakland

A Plea to End Racial Bias:  A Mom's Response to Police Violence in Our Cities

Violence and the Urban Commons