A Walk in the Park

I walk in the park almost daily and know the subject area very well. For those who do not, I’d like to describe it.

The backs of the Alma Real homes are about 50 feet from the fence—walls at the property line, which is heavily screened by trees and bushes on park side and/or home side.

Then there is a 22-foot-wide space to the fence of the maintenance yard. This fence is also heavily screened by bushes.

The waste containers are set further in. They could be even further away from the Alma Real side. I’ve never detected an odor or even heard a noise.

I do know that the yard is useful for park equipment storage and vehicles and various materials. Certainly newer containers would further mitigate any complaints, but it’s clear that it’s not a significant annoyance to the homeowners and their concerns have no validity.

Howard Yonet

‘Hate Is Alive and Well in America’

“That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” This quote is attributed to the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

One thing Nietzsche neglected to point out, however, is some things may not kill us, but in the process of making us better, they can piss us off and make us mad as hell!

Thursday evening, April 18, at about 8:20 p.m., my 16-year-old daughter and I had one of those “piss you off before making you better” experiences.

That evening, I was at the Palisades Lutheran Church, where for the past two years I have served as the pastor. Per my instructions, my twin daughters, Cassadi and Camryn, walked to Ralphs in Pacific Palisades community where I serve and we live.

After the Thursday evening service was over, I left the church heading east on Sunset toward our home in the Alphabet Streets. My cell phone rang and I heard Cassadi on the other end crying.

I asked what was going on and Cassadi said Camryn had gone inside Ralphs to use the restroom and while Cassadi was standing outside getting a shopping cart, a middle-aged while female came very close to her face and began verbally attacking her by saying, “You f—— n—–—I hate you n——!” I asked if she was safe and told her I was on my way.

As fate, luck, the universe, God would have it, Cassadi’s call came at the precise time I was driving past Ralphs. I met my daughter at the front door of the store and asked where the woman was. Cassadi pointed her out next to a white Passat.

Without thinking and probably not wise, I approached the vehicle and tapped on her widows that were rolled up and asked, “What did you say to my daughter?”

She turned on the engine, put the vehicle in reverse, all the while continuing to hurl insults and explicatives. She repeatedly shouted, “You f—— n——, I hate you!”

She then backed up and appeared to be leaving the parking lot. To my surprise, she stopped the car, left the engine running, got out of the car and began to walk toward me.

She came within 10 feet of where I was standing and again said, “You f—— n——, I hate you!” Then she added the phrase, “I’m going to get my gun and come back and kill you n——!” At which point she returned to her vehicle and turned left onto Sunset.

I was in total shock and dismay at what just happened, and instructed Cassadi to go inside Ralphs and get her sister while I waited outside for them. Still very shaken and visibly shocked, I took my daughters home where they were speechless and unable to fully grasp the HATE crime Cassadi and I had just experienced.

Since the incident, I have been asked some interesting questions such as: What do I think triggered this and was the white middle-aged woman a homeless person? Both questions have deep implications when one takes the time to unpack them.

The question of what triggered this behavior suggest that something must have been said or done to cause this evil person to behave in such a manner because no one or maybe no white person in Pacific Palisades would react this way without being provoked. The only stimulus for her outburst was seeing a BLACK FAMILY in Pacific Palisades, her white community and her white world.

The second and equally disturbing question is if she was homeless or a transient? This question also carries with it some serious implications. The inquiry suggests that this kind of behavior and derogatory words could not come from a resident of Pacific Palisades. She must be an outsider, someone who was simply passing through because no one in Pacific Palisades thinks, acts, talks or behaves like that.

I was most taken by the woman’s racism, rage and revolution. What spewed from the mouth of this evil woman was a tangled coil of hate.

I wrote this story to help “exorcise and purge” myself of the toxic deadly feelings I have toward this woman and other people who share her racist views. I wrote to detox and treat myself for the cancer of racism she exposed my daughter to.

I wrote to ask my neighbors in and around Pacific Palisades where I live and serve: When will America really change?

My lifelong friend James once said to me, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

Hate is alive and well in America, towards: Blacks and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, immigrants and LGBTQ communities. Now is the time to face the racism and hate Pacific Palisades! Now is the time for America to face all racism and hate.

Pastor Kenneth Davis
Palisades Lutheran Church

Showing Support

I am deeply grateful for the courage of Pastor Davis and his daughter in sharing with the community the traumatic incidents of last week.

I believe the act of voicing what happened takes tremendous psychic energy and courage. I stand with those who have expressed the desire to support some form of community response.

I spoke with Pastor Davis and one thing I suggested was to show solidarity at his May 5 sermon at Palisades Lutheran Church at 11 a.m. He would welcome this and is preparing his sermon to address this important topic our country is facing.

I look forward to being together in a space of deep listening on Sunday.

As a white woman in this community, I would like to offer encouragement that we (myself included) look to increase our awareness of the broad continuum of racism underpinning our culture, interactions and dynamics (yes, “even” in this community, and yes, even in 2019).

While it’s very important to find this particular offender and hold her accountable, I want to also offer to other white Palisadians thinking about this incident that it’s important that we do not overlook ourselves or this opportunity to welcome more truth-telling, dialog and learning.

I am reminded of this quote from Robin DiAngelo: “The most effective adaptation of racism over time is the idea that racism is conscious bias held by mean people.” There is much unconscious racism and systemic racism, and this is critical to see.

As a mom of 8- and 11-year-old boys, I was recently in a group of parents at an off-campus gathering. One of the parents confided in me that she was mortified to have just observed a white parent persistently mistaking another parent (who is a black man) for a delivery-person. There are many such incidents, as friends and neighbors have voiced to me over the last few days in particular.

I do not share any of this as an accusation, but rather as an opportunity. I share it because, in the words of James Baldwin, shared by Pastor Davis on Nextdoor, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

I believe racism is multi-layered and embedded into our culture and that white people have blind spots on racism—that I have blind spots on racism—that bias is implicit and unconscious, as well as blatant and violent, but that we can support each other to lay down our defensiveness and learn and listen and work to create change.

On Sunday, we can show up to support Pastor Davis and his daughters. And we can equally show up to impact ourselves. I believe the two are inextricably bound.

This week my mom asked me, “If you had been there at Ralphs at that moment, what would you have done?”

I think we can all reflect on what we can do to be an upstander rather than a bystander. We can also delve into the unintended and systemic patterns to become stronger allies in creating emotional and physical safety and healing.

I believe our presence matters on Sunday. Our listening matters, our learning and growing and coming together in community matter. Thank you to everyone who is coming.

Cathy Salser