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Penman Has A “Keeping Blacks & Browns” in Their Place Mentality

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The change in the San Bernardino City Charter proposed by City Attorney Jim Penman, must be viewed with jaundiced eyes by Black Americans living in the city.

For starters we have not always had representation in the city council and neither did Latino Americans because many Whites would not vote for either group because of race and ethnicity.

That is what brought about the ward system we currently have and, believe it or not, we still have racial motives when it comes to voting for our representation. That in my opinion is what’s behind the proposal by Mr. Penman.

One of the first things that made me a little suspicious is that Penman announced that he has retained the assistance of two other attorneys to draft the proposal, but will not inform the public of their identity. Where I come from that is the same reason why the Ku Klux Klan put hoods over their faces because they didn’t want anybody to know who they were. That way during the day they could sell you their goods in the stores, you work for them on the farms, and at night, they would don their white sheets, fire torches and crosses to intimidate the same Blacks.

This is similar to the secrecy identified in the book “Progress Against the Tide” written by Retired Judge E. Dorian Gadsden where he describes the history and motives to disenfranchise the Black vote nationally. It was immediately after the Civil War and Blacks were being elected to many public offices because they had the numbers in their favor. So the southern Whites devised a plan to remove Blacks from office as well as minimize their voting numbers. They organized “secret and ritualistic organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Jayhawkers, and the Black Horse Cavalry.”

Now I’m not saying the two attorneys now working on this proposal have reached that status but their motives will have the same impact and damage to the voting communities of Blacks and Latinos in San Bernardino. Now, like then, the White population had a problem with Blacks electing who they wanted to represent them and Whites not having the power to control the elected officials. That is what happened to Mr. Penman during the last election, the people he wanted to get elected were not the ones the people living in the wards wanted.

Like John Hope Franklin stated in his book From Slavery to Freedom, their objective was keeping the Negro in his place. Penman wants to keep Blacks and Latinos in their place otherwise he would not be concerned about how many are or are not coming out to vote. If Blacks stay home as he states and Whites come out, then the Whites would select my representative on the council. These secret organizations also came up with other ideas to discourage Blacks from voting by charging poll tax, excluding people convicted of burglary, theft, bribery, arson, murder, bigamy, and persons who could not read or give a reasonable interpretation of the state constitution. In Louisana they went so far as to enact a grandfather clause, which meant the only way you could vote was if your grandfather voted during his life.

Andrew Hacker in his book Two Nations states “(minorities) have less opportunities than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.” Now I don’t think Penman would go to that great of length to disenfranchise us from voting but I do believe he will do everything in his power to maximize the White voters influence in selecting who they want downtown representing each ward.

Now Penman also points to the local school board as part of his argument to remove the ward system, it has some merits but several things are different. The mission of each agency is different, schools involve parents and even though it is a big business it is not controlled or motivated by business developers, police associations or AFL/CIO type labor unions. The school board members are heavily regulated by state and federal mandates. The most important product of the school mission is children who cannot vote, give contributions to campaigns take board members to lunch or all of the many other things associated with a council representative.

As a member of the San Bernardino NAACP I will be proposing to the membership that we seek legal action against the city if Mr. Penman does not release the identity of the secret attorneys and have the entire proposal be scrutinized by the public before it is completed. We have come to far from where we started from to have it all turned around by a power hungry attorney who wants to keep Blacks and Latinos in their place. Mr. Penman, not on our watch.

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