San Diego County government will once again have a Human Relations Commission, featuring 25 members from various minority and religious groups, along with law enforcement, a spokesperson said Wednesday.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to revive the commission, which was officially disbanded two years ago. The commission stopped meeting in the 1990s, after public interest waned, officials said.
The commission will be named after Leon L. Williams, the county’s first African American supervisor, who was elected in 1982 and retired from the county in the early 1990s. Supervisors watched a video featuring Williams, who stressed the need to restart the commission.
The revived commission will consist of 25 members, including 10 appointed by supervisors.
Other members will be from Jewish Family Services, the San Diego LGBT Community Center, International Rescue Committee, San Diego Rapid Response Network, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, the Asian Pacific Islander community, the San Diego Chapter of the Black Political Association of California, the county District Attorney’s Office, and the sheriff’s department.
Several representatives from the youth community will also sit on the commission, said James Canning, a spokesman for Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.
Fletcher, who proposed restarting the commission, said in a written statement that it “will bring our community together to tackle issues of racism, discrimination and address social inequities that divide San Diego County.
“Re-establishing the commission is a strong step in the right direction, but now the real work begins,” Fletcher said.
On Tuesday, Fletcher said divisive rhetoric and hate crimes have been on the rise over the last few years. He cited several examples, including the April 2019 shooting at a Poway synagogue that left one woman dead and several people injured, and racist attacks connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anti-immigrant sentiments are at an all-time high, Fletcher said. There were recent incidents at grocery stores in Santee: one man wore a Ku Klux Klan hood while shopping, while another wore a mask with a swastika on it.
Supervisor Dianne Jacob said those “are ugly reminders that racism exists in the county.”
A revived commission “could give residents a venue to address acts of bigotry and guide this region towards greater tolerance,” she added.
Before supervisors voted, they heard from residents and community group representatives, who said the commission was crucial in this era.
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