Re: Reckoning with Our Past to Change Our Future.
Thank you for publishing Dr. Miskolcze’s Op-Ed “Reckoning With Our Past to Change Our Future.” Through the 1960s, El Segundo was well-known as a “sundown town” where Black people found within city limits after sundown would often be harassed or attacked. And many in El Segundo live in homes that still carry (now-unenforceable) covenants that restrict occupancy to those “of the white or Caucasian race.” For those aware of this history, it is not surprising to learn the lengths to which white El Segundo residents went to prevent the establishment of Titus Alexander’s Black beach resort. The current racial makeup of El Segundo and the town’s persistent issues with racial profiling flow directly from this legacy.
It, of course, would be unfair to say that progress has not been made in El Segundo since the city thwarted a Black man’s plans for a resort adjacent to its shores. El Segundo continues to diversify with each census count, the city council recently created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee; and groups like ours, El Segundo for Black Lives, have mobilized fellow residents to join in our commitment to make El Segundo a more welcoming place for our Black neighbors, friends and family.
This path to progress, however, remains fraught with roadblocks to achieving true equality. For instance, this past summer, nearly 100 years after Titus Alexander, a woman—in a now viral video—unleashed a vicious racist tirade against three Black joggers at the very beach where Alexander had planned to open his resort. The woman in the video went on to openly weaponize the police against the three Black women, falsely claiming on a 911 call that she had been assaulted.
Yet, when these disgraceful incidents happen today—more and more—we see that the rebuke of such racist behavior and the demand for justice grow stronger. In this case, the El Segundo mayor and police department both released statements condemning the actions of the woman and asserted that El Segundo is a city for all people from all walks of life. But bold words such as these must be met with bolder action. We hope that with this newfound reckoning finally comes lasting and meaningful change that will ensure a brighter future for all Black lives in El Segundo.
Co-Head of Communications
El Segundo for Black Lives
Advocates for the Ballona Wetlands appreciate the Argonaut’s dedicating space to this issue of local and regional importance and we hope that continues. The original opinion piece on this topic, (“Gov. Newsom Shouldn’t Bulldoze LA’s Ballona Wetlands,” November 11), included criticisms of the current restoration plans that our organization generally agrees with but which may benefit from further clarity. We do not believe that SoCalGas is the primary driver of the restoration plans, as the original opinion piece seemed to suggest, but the evidence does clearly show that SoCalGas is exploiting those plans as a means to garner support for the modernization of their aging infrastructure, which they have admitted will reduce their operating expenses.
Everyone who values these wetlands would like the gas infrastructure to be gone, but a plan that expressly includes the drilling of new wells may be more environmentally harmful in the long term, given the growing political support for phasing out the facility entirely. Loyola Marymount University and Friends of Ballona Wetlands both receive tens of thousands of dollars in grant money from SoCalGas and have both shown a willingness to repeat the company’s PR narratives. Accordingly, it was not a surprise that representatives of those two entities strenuously objected to the original opinion piece.
Both LMU and the Friends also have close relationships with Playa Vista, the firm that developed much of what was historically part of the Ballona Wetlands, and both entities also supported a proposed special interest construction project in the ecological reserve that our nonprofit successfully thwarted. In fact, LMU received $450,000 from the entity that wanted to construct that project, which then touted the backing of LMU professors for their ill-advised and ultimately abandoned proposal. There is no question that this ecosystem, which already supports countless species of native plants and animals, can become even more valuable with thoughtful stewardship, which has been sadly lacking since this land was acquired in 2003 with $139 million in public funds.
Both LMU and Friends of Ballona Wetlands could help facilitate objective discussion about how best to achieve this, but they have chosen instead to further misleading narratives and half-truths about the restoration plans to further their narrow interests. Those who sincerely value the Ballona Wetlands as an ecological treasure with unrealized potential should be wary of those whose career interests are so intertwined with corporate and government funding that they seem to have lost any sense of objectivity.
Ballona Wetlands Land Trust