Conversations With Nicole
by: Nicole Murray Ramirez
The media has been doing a solid job of covering and educating the general public about the San Diego County Human Relations Commission and the recent homophobic and antisemitic remarks made at three meetings by its own members. More specifically, the media has covered how the Commission Chair allowed those comments to be made unchallenged and did not call the speakers out of order. Despite pleas from leaders within both communities, no apology was made to either the Jewish community or the LGBTQ community for these attacks that have brought pain and hurt to these two communities.
One Commissioner called the LGBTQ community, especially transgender people, and I quote “An abomination before God.” I must give much credit to former Commissioner Caroline (Cara) Dessert (CEO, The San Diego LGBT Community Center) for her leadership in our efforts to rightfully have that commissioner removed after he doubled down on his hate speech and has refused to this day to retract his hateful words.
The Commission took a vote and refused to remove him. In fact, many Commissioners supported his hate speech as “free speech” and he remains on the Commission to this day. We lost three outstanding Commissioners who resigned after this vote, including transgender and Filipino community icon Julia Legaspi who was the subject of this hate attack.
This non-action by the Commission occurred about a year ago and, I believe, set the stage for the current antisemitic remarks by two Commissioners who have not only stood by their remarks, but one still serves on the Commission.
This County Commission was created by our County Supervisors to “help reduce discrimination and intolerance.” The San Diego County Human Relations Commission has absolutely failed in its mission and has lost its way.
As many of you know, I lobbied for more than 30 years to get this Commission reinstated and worked closely with former Supervisor Ron Roberts, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, and former Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. We could never get the third vote until we saw the horror of the attack at the Jewish synagogue in Poway. Only then did Nathan get a unanimous vote to move forward.
I recommended that the Commission be named after civil rights icon former Supervisor Leon Williams and Nathan succeeded in doing that. I served as this Commission’s first elected vice-chair and was successful in getting my six proposals passed by the Commission during my term:
1. That every meeting would start with recognizing whose land we stand on;
2. Supporting the establishment of a permanent Holocaust museum in San Diego County;
3. Supporting the continuing of “Friendship Park” at the Tijuana/USA border;
4. Supporting the re-naming of the infamous bridge in Alabama after the late Congressman John Lewis;
5. Supporting the national campaign to get a U.S. postage stamp named after civil rights icon Bayard Rustin; and,
6. Establishing the Commission’s annual awards on United Nations Day, which in 1948 adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
While I am appreciative of the Commission’s support and vote for my six proposals, I cannot think of any other stances this particular Commission has taken. In fact, this Commission has held two Community Town Hall Meetings, supposedly to get feedback from the people in North County and South Bay. And with 25 members on the commission, only about six showed up at both community meetings!
The County Human Relations Commission has lost the support of our County’s diverse communities. Today, a dark cloud continues to not only hang over it, but to grow. Now the elected District Attorney and Sheriff have rightly resigned from the Commission, and I applaud their statements and stand against antisemitism and homophobia.
If this Commission is to continue, it must take strong stands and send strong messages of change to the general public.
1. The current chair must step down and new leadership elected.
2. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) should be given a permanent seat as other organizations have, and two more Jewish Commissioners should be appointed.
3. A strong statement against antisemitism (which is on the rise in San Diego County) must be put forth by this Commission as the Board of Supervisors has done; and a strong statement in support of the LGBTQ community, especially the transgender community, must be made.
4. The new chair must commit to calling any hate speech – made by a Commissioner or during public comment – “out of order.”
I do want to thank our Commission’s hard-working staff during this difficult time and I also salute the City of San Diego’s Human Relations Commission for its decades of bringing communities together.
Even though I continue to receive hate calls, I will always stand up for any community subjected to hate speech. Thank you for reading this. Please contact me if you have any comments.
–Nicole Murray Ramirez is a lifelong Latino and LGBT activist and advocate, a longtime city commissioner, and is the Queen Mother of the International Imperial Court of the Americas. He can be reached at [email protected].