Monday, November 2, 2009

A message from the mayor of Richmond on the gang rape

I'm on a mailing list for these messages. This is from Gayle McLaughlin, the mayor of Richmond:

It has been a very difficult past week in Richmond. Many of you are aware of the horrific rape and assault of the young woman, 15 years old, at Richmond High School.

We, in the City of Richmond, extend our full support to the young woman and her family. We know that recovery (physical, mental, and emotional) will be a long process.

Throughout last week, I was interviewed by many reporters and shared my outrage and pain over this horrendous crime. This incident is deeply troubling and our police department is fully engaged in making arrests and conducting a thorough investigation.

Although this horrible incident occurred in Richmond, there is no doubt that this incident is symptomatic of a much larger problem. While the national media has chosen to cast disparaging light on the City of Richmond, this incident is not about Richmond. It is about violence to women, experienced daily throughout America. Every nine seconds in the US a woman is sexually violated.

Hostility and violence against women is based on social injustice propped up by advertising and commercial interests that choose to portray women as sexualized objects, passive and dehumanized, apart from real human relationships.

A Richmond High teacher rightly said that this is a “teachable moment,” and it is a teachable moment that must extend beyond the moment and sink deep into our national consciousness. Sexism, along with racism, poverty, and all forms of social decay continue to exist in our nation because we have not put all forces to bear into opposing them.

This deeply troubling incident in Richmond is indeed a time for reflection. It is time to reflect more deeply on the injustices that are allowed to fester in our society. Every one of us has the responsibility to critically analyze the root causes of social ills. Why did some among our youth stand by in the face of this heinous crime? Yes, there is something wrong here, but it doesn’t originate in our youth and it doesn’t originate in Richmond. The status quo culture throughout our nation does not encourage youth to stand up for justice. Nor does it encourage youth to speak truth to power. We see young people too often being shaped, molded and told to "fit in" to this unjust society without questioning its persistent flaws. When we call upon on our youth to not stand by passively in the face of a crime, we must call upon ourselves to not stand by as our youth come of age in a world filled with problems, and instead encourage them in the strongest way possible to stand up for something better.

And the media must be called upon as well. They must be called upon to look deeper at the issues they cover. Shockingly, I was told by a prominent Bay Area TV News reporter when she questioned me about this horrendous act of violence in Richmond that she “didn’t want to hear about social injustice.” Well, the problem should not be separated from the cause, and, in my view, the media has a responsibility to explain Richmond’s issues in the context of our overall systemic problems. News stories leave a profound impact upon our youth. In Richmond you will find the brightest and most empathetic youth as you will find anywhere. Many have overcome huge challenges in their young lives already. They are refusing to take on the image that the press too often places on Richmond youth and our community as a whole.

In response to this rape, I participated in a very moving press conference organized by youth groups at Richmond High this past Thursday. Check out the strong voices of our youth, their teachers, and adult allies at Richmond High School here (scroll down on the page to the video): Community rallies...

Another activity, a Peace Rally, will be held in front of Richmond High on Nov. 7 at 11 a.m. to continue to extend support and raise awareness.

Richmond High is accepting cards and donations for the young rape victim and her family. Checks should be made out to the Richmond High Student Fund. The checks and cards should be sent directly to the school at 1250 23rd St., Richmond, CA 94804-1011


Gayle McLaughlin
City of Richmond

1 comment:

  1. The family of the rape vicitm has requested that donations and cards (no flowers at this time) be sent to their pastor, Pastor Jim Wheeler. He is coordinating the funds on behalf of the victim.

    Cards, donations and gifts can also be sent to Richmond High School and school staff will make sure these items are delivered to the victim's family through Pastor Wheeler.

    Make checks out to the First Presbyterian Church of Richmond, with "Victory over violence fund” written in the memo line.

    First Presbyterian Church of Richmond
    Address: 3415 Barrett Avenue
    Richmond, CA 94805

    Pastor Jim Wheeler
    Phone Number: (510)234-0954
    Fax Number: (510)234-7377

    Any cards and donations received by the school district, including those sent to Richmond High School will be forwarded to Pastor Wheeler.