An ugly reminder

A family’s encounters with racism demonstrate that we still have work to do.

It’s 2015 and the members of a multiracial family in Chico have been ridiculed because of their race—or worse, they may have been the target of a hate crime. How disturbing.

The fact that the alleged perpetrators are teenagers makes no difference. The ignorant and intimidating behavior described by the McGriff family is inexcusable and it needs to stop. Moreover, apologies need to be made, and not just from the offending youths. That’s because the family in question has repeatedly sought help from the Chico Police Department and Chico High School administrators, and the response has been less than adequate (see Ken Smith’s write-up on page 9).

The school’s principal, Jim Hanlon, declined to say whether the kids, whom the CN&R has no interest in naming, have been punished. Nor did he address this newspaper’s inquiries into whether the school has policies related to racial discrimination. While we’re firm believers in due process, we also believe in swift and firm consequences for such unacceptable behavior. As it stands, the school has done so little that the family felt it necessary to contact this newspaper. Instead, it should use this situation as a teaching moment.

Meanwhile, it’s clear from the McGriffs’ account of interactions with a Chico police officer that the department needs a briefing on racial sensitivity. Using the term “colored” is insensitive, and that’s at best. It’s hard to believe someone whose job involves interacting with the public would use such language.

February is Black History Month, and as demonstrated by our story last week about a Ku Klux Klan parade in downtown Chico back in the early part of the last century, Chico has a history of racism. The McGriff family’s recent experience, along with other stories we’ve reported about race issues over the years, is an ugly reminder that Chico has much work to do when it comes to race relations. The question is, what are we as a community willing to do about it?