The Southern Poverty Law Center, (SPLC), a non-profit organization, has tracked over 1,020 hate groups across the U.S. in 2018, and 83 of them are in California. Chico is known for its historical roots and beautiful landscape. However, more recently, Chico has become a headquarter for racist slurs, homophobic, and sexist graffiti defacing bulletin boards and office doors at Chico State’s Butte Hall and on community murals, businesses and residences alike. The recent incidents of hate do not represent a “few bad apples,” but rather a stream of sentiments felt by a majority of residents.
During the November 2016 presidential election, Trump won the majority vote of Butte County by 46.54%. Chico is a town that is still paying homage to John and Annie Bidwell as local pioneers on Pioneer Day, thus diminishing the existence of Natives and minimizing the acquisition of stolen land. The community of Chico is wrapped in conservative White nationalism, caring little about the safety of people of color and more about protecting their own interests.
The First Amendment protects our rights to free speech and in most cases, one’s ability to use harmful and abusive language to attack groups of people based on prejudices. If our judicial system is unwilling to criminalize hate speech and protect our most marginalized groups of people, then we must do better as a community to protect each other. We must organize our communities to become more trauma-informed spaces of healing, diversity, accountability, and transparency.
Tolerance is just not enough in my backyard.