Editor's Note: At the Dec. 8 City Council study session regarding coronavirus restrictions, Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price asked Long Beach Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis to tell the public about her educational background to deflect complaints restrictions were not scientifically-based. After Dr. Davis did so, Councilman Rex Richardson questioned the propriety of the request, and a group of prominent Black women followed up with an open letter characterizing the request as discriminatory. Price reiterated that the only reason she made the request was to emphasize the scientific basis behind restriction decisions.
Councilwoman Suzie Price is not a racist! When I heard Wednesday morning that there was an issue at Council, I was concerned about what could have been misconstrued — which is often normal in communications, especially when virtual.
I then watched the recording of the question the Councilwoman asked of Dr. Davis. I had to watch it a second time as I thought I must have missed something. I hadn’t. And I don’t think it is fair for anyone to make a comment on the Councilwoman’s question unless they actually watched the recording, heard the question, Dr. Davis’s thoughtful answer, and the Councilwoman’s response to a comment made by Councilman Richardson.
Qualifications to be making decisions that impact the lives of close to a half million people and result in huge economic consequences, plus the education of our youth, was a valid question to be asked of the doctor/health officer in charge during a global pandemic. Doesn’t matter what gender or race. Transparency and accountability are critical.
In an era of fake news, the Councilwoman was providing an opportunity for the public to learn of not only her exceptional experience, but of her love of her hometown of Long Beach. Those of us who have watched her regularly this year on the Mayor’s briefings know the good doctor’s dedication.
Back to race. I have spent much time over my career working with diversity, equity and inclusion. The last 18 months, I have been exploring cities as innovators of social change and the corporation’s role, with a focus on Detroit, Los Angeles, Newark and Baltimore. I’ve met with many community leaders and neighborhood organizers. I understand the feeling that many people of color have when being questioned when others might not face the same scrutiny.
But this is not that type of situation. If the Councilwoman’s comment was racist, or meant to demean our esteemed doctor, I can tell you that we are in for a big challenge as this is nothing compare to what I saw and experienced on my listening tour.
I do have to mention that this seems to be yet another nasty attack by a certain faction in the city for political gain at the expense of freedom of speech and different opinions. I believe those who have amplified this current attack on the Councilwoman were also connected to the obscene placement of caskets on her lawn and the loud protests at her home. This same faction I believe was behind some of the nasty, and potentially illegal, actions taken against certain candidates in our recent city elections. This “posturing” will not bode well when certain individuals seek higher office.
In the spirit of the city’s Racial Equity and Reconciliation Initiative, we need to tone down the rhetoric and name calling. Breaking down structural racism is and will be hard work. Sadly, some of what I heard during Long Beach’s community listening sessions was hostile and will push people apart, not fix what needs attention. Stop the name calling and recognize when you have an ally such as Councilwoman Price. Just because you might not agree on everything, or how to go about certain aspects, it doesn’t mean that she is a foe. I participated in her first district conversation on race soon after the murder of George Floyd that she proactively set, in addition to the citywide discussions.
Instead of harmful and destructive attacks, if we are to truly solve our city’s and nation’s systemic racism, we need to come together, work together. These current attacks do nothing but to further divide.
Jeff Hoffman is both a resident and business owner in Long Beach. He is a corporate social responsibility thought leader.