Eight months ago, following the murder of George Floyd by former American police officer Derek Chauvin and nationwide protests of police brutality against the BIPOC community, Half Moon Bay commissioned the painting of a Black Lives Matter mural on City Hall. In doing so, the city showed solidarity with the Black community and support for Black residents.
We commend the City Council of Half Moon Bay for its unanimous decision to display this solidarity. Now, more than ever, this is a time to affirm what kind of city Half Moon Bay wants to be. This mural is an important statement. It does not take the place of further action to combat racism against black and brown individuals, but it provides a visual reminder that the city of Half Moon Bay supports antiracist action and the safety of all its residents.
Both Half Moon Bay and San Mateo County overall have a way to go before we can call ourselves a safe and antiracist community.
According to the Department of Justice, which collects policing data directly from city and county agencies as mandated by state law, San Mateo County is arresting black and brown individuals at a rate far disproportionate to the county demographics. The 2019 Census Bureau reports that Black or African American individuals make up only 2.8 percent of San Mateo County’s population. Despite this, they make up 19.7 percent of all felony arrests by the San Mateo Sheriff's Office between 2016 and 2020. A Black individual is 16.5 times more likely than a white individual to be arrested for a felony in San Mateo County despite the fact that white or Caucasian individuals make up 59.5 percent of the county population. Hispanic and Latino individuals are 24 percent of the population but make up 38 percent of felony arrests during the same period. All in all, 74 percent of felony arrests by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office between 2016 and 2020 are people of color.
In coming years, Half Moon Bay residents will have the opportunity to advocate for reforms that require greater transparency and oversight of law enforcement. We can work together to ensure that our friends and neighbors are treated equally.
In the meantime, we celebrate the Black Lives Matter mural and continue to advocate for justice. We think the mural is an important symbol that there is no place for hate within the walls of this city and that we continue to strive toward a better and more fair environment for all. As mentioned, Blacks are a minority in San Mateo County (and even more so in Half Moon Bay), but to change these statistics and attract a more diverse population, we need to create a local culture where all underrepresented groups belong. This needs to be evidenced in everyday actions by law enforcement, educators, retail owners, city officials and every private citizen.
The BLM mural is an important symbol of that collective commitment and should remain for years to come. If it is ever to be taken down it needs to be replaced with an even greater message of anti-discrimination.
Alison Little lives in Pacifica and works in Half Moon Bay.