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Coronado Coach Fired Following Racist Postgame Incident

 June 25, 2021 at 9:59 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:01 Racist taunting and a wealthy San Diego community becomes a national story. Why the victim say a high school coach, his firing isn't enough. Vice-president Kamala Harris heads to the border. And the border patrol chief is on his way out the busy week for America's changing approach to immigration and new pledges of action on homelessness as downtown San Diego residents say the crisis is getting worse. I'm Andrew Bowen and the KPBS round table starts. Now. Speaker 2: 00:36 [inaudible] Speaker 1: 00:38 Welcome to our discussion of the week's top stories. I'm Andrew Bowen. Joining me on this remote edition of the KPBS round table are KPBS racial justice and social equity reporter, Christina Kim immigration author, and reporter Jean Guerrero and voice of San Diego reporter Lisa Halverstadt a high school basketball game. And Cora natto is now the latest case study in racism and how we talk about it and its impact on young people. By now you've likely seen the social media video or at least heard about it. It shows people throwing tortillas toward a largely Latino boys basketball team from orange Glen high school. After they lost the championship game to Coronado high punishment came fast with the firing of core NADOs head coach, but that won't be the end of the story. As the county tries to understand what we can learn from this incident. Christina Kim is KPBS racial justice and social equity reporter. She's been following the story for us and she joins us now, Christina, welcome to the round table, Andrew. So for anyone who has not yet seen this story, what exactly happened after Saturday's basketball game in Cornado? Speaker 3: 01:46 Right? So on Saturday orange, Glen high school played against Coronado high in the CIF championship basketball game. These teams had previously played against each other and it was already a kind of tense and exciting basketball game. Once the game ended and the teams were doing, you know, the traditional shaking of the hands at the end of the game after Coronado high had beat orange Glen, the head coach of core nano high JD Lopera allegedly yelled profanities at orange Glen's basketball coach telling them to, you know, bleep get out of here and take their losers away. At which point tortillas were thrown at orange Glen players. And again, orange Glen is a predominantly Latino school [inaudible] Speaker 1: 02:28 School district took action this week. What did they do with the coach? Speaker 3: 02:32 You're right earlier this week, the core unified school district had a special meeting on Tuesday night and they decided to let go of head coach Jay de LA Perry. It wasn't said exactly why it was done behind closed sessions, but he is no longer going to be a coach orange. Speaker 1: 02:49 Glen parents say that the basketball coach for Cornado escalated the situation. Why do they think that he was at fault here? Speaker 3: 02:57 Right? A lot of orange blend parents have said that he was the instigator in the way that he behaved. So again, they weren't necessarily saying that he was racist or that he had even brought the tortillas. It was more his behavior. The fact that he did in fact, yell profanities towards the orange Glen head coach. He was just not acting in a sportsmanship type way. He wasn't being a leader for young people. And that behavior is really what orange land parents underscored as why he was the instigator. Speaker 1: 03:24 Now the man who brought the tortillas to the game actually came forward this week. What did he have to say? Speaker 3: 03:30 That's right. Luke CRNA, a Coronet Ohio alum identified himself as the person who brought and distributed the tortillas at the game to Coronado high players and cheerleaders. He has said that it was not intended to be racist and that he'd seen this tradition at UC Santa Barbara of which she's also an alum. It's interesting because a lot of media outlets seem to underscore that CRNA's, half-Mexican almost as a way of downplaying that the tortilla throwing was perceived as racist. I've got to say in this case, knowing who brought the tortillas is obviously key to the investigation, but in terms of the impact that it's already had on orange Glen players and the community, I'm not sure how much it matters. Who brought the tortillas. I will say that Luke Cerner tweeted on Thursday morning quote, I realized that tortilla throwing has been perceived as racially insensitive. I do not condone racially insensitive behavior, and that was not my intent. I apologize to all who were hurt by this. And I hope it'd be a teaching moment for us to become more conscious. But again, ultimately when dealing with issues of racism, we have to remember the difference between intent and impact. And so no matter what was intended, the orange Glen community has been very vocal about the harm that it's caused. Speaker 1: 04:40 Now, this is a story where there's an intersection of race and class Cornetto, of course, a largely white, very wealthy community as Candido has a large Latino population. It's sort of a working class suburb in the north county. How do those demographics fit into this story? Speaker 3: 04:57 Right? I mean, I think when these incidents happen, they don't happen in a vacuum. So, you know, there's been a lot of discussion about well will tortilla throwing is, is a tradition that we've seen happen. It's something that isn't necessarily racist, but it's the very fact of the context in which it's happening. The Cornado is a largely white and wealthy community, but Escondido does have a large Latino population that is more working class. And so in that instance, that background is necessary to understand why the tortilla throwing incident has been seen and deemed as a racist incident. You know, I've been talking to people from the orange Len community alum and people whose family members go to orange Glen. And something I heard from them is that even when they were going to school there, they were always perceived as quote unquote, the ghetto school. That's a stereotype that they know their school carries. They already know that. And so in this instance already having that and having heard these type of slurs in the, in the past, it was a charge game already. I think we need to know that background. We have to understand that these schools come with different identities and they bring in all of those identities into the Plainfield. So when these incidents rise up, it's totally necessary to understand what communities these schools are grounded in. Speaker 1: 06:09 Now, Christina, this story has opened up a discussion about restorative justice. First, can you define that term for us and how would officials like to apply it here? Speaker 3: 06:18 Absolutely. So earlier this week, I spoke to professor David Karp of the university of San Diego. He's also the director of the Senator for restorative justice. And what he told me is the restorative justice is fundamentally about identifying a harm that has happened or occurred in the aftermath of some situations. So in this, in this case, you know, the tortilla throwing and really talking to all the parties involved so that they can one identify the harm that was caused, address it, and also really ask what are the needs of the people who have been impacted by, you know, the crime or in this instance, the hurtful action, something he said to me is just a really quick way of understanding. How do we understand where restorative justice in this case is? What would it take for orange Glen players to feel excited about playing Coronado high again? And that can seem so simple, but it's hard. It's that? Like, what is it going to take to rebuild that trust, to rebuild the fact that those kids were there playing basketball. So what would it take for it, for them to get back to feeling like they can just play basketball and that the harms that they've caused each other have actually been addressed and resolved Speaker 1: 07:24 Now in an unrelated development, the county's largest school district, San Diego unified decided this week to include anti-racist curriculum in public schools. There's been a big pushback nationally to this idea and this term of critical race theory. Why do you think it's such a sensitive topic that many people don't want to explore it in public education? Speaker 3: 07:46 I think so much of this comes from a sense of misunderstanding about what we even mean by anti-racist curriculum, or, you know, now that big buzzword, critical race theory, I think both of these curriculums have kind of been taken out of context and they've just become buzzwords or empty kind of containers that people can kind of put all their fears into. Again, I think it's just a misunderstanding that being anti-racist isn't about shaming people or completely rechanging everything it's about creating curriculum that actually empowers students to interrogate systems of power. Yes. That will inevitably maybe open up some uncomfortable conversations. And I think as a country, we are all learning together how to have those conversations. So to me, as we're kind of all starting to look into what is going on behind this pushback, I think it's just because people aren't talking to each other and there's a lot of misunderstanding as to what this curriculum entail. Speaker 1: 08:42 I've been speaking with Christina Kim KPBS, racial justice and social equity reporter, and Christina, thanks for your reporting on this. And thanks for joining the round table. Thank you so much. Andrew news came this week that the administration will give asylum seekers waiting in Mexico. Another chance to enter the United States if their initial claims were dismissed or denied. That's one in a flurry of border and immigration news, including a vice-presidential visit to the border and a leadership change for the border patrol. One of the leading writers and reporters on this topic is KPBS alum, gene Guerrero, who will soon join the LA times as an opinion, columnist gene, welcome to the round table. Speaker 4: 09:22 Hey Andrea, great to be here. Let's start Speaker 1: 09:24 With vice president Kamala Harris visiting the border region near El Paso on Friday. This follows her trip to central America where she famously told people, thinking of migrating to the U S do not come do not come. Now that trip was met with criticism from across the political spectrum. Why? Well, on the one Speaker 4: 09:42 Hand she received criticism from Republicans who said that she should be at the border, that she shouldn't be in central America, that she needs to, you know, focused on, on, on visiting the border. But you know, that criticism, which was largely unwarranted given the fact that she was in central America, trying to address the root causes of immigration, you know, the problem of displacement at its origins rather than simply beefing up militarization, uh, you know, as a stop gap measure and essentially sending hundreds of people to their death as, as, as a has happened every year since we started this practice on the other hand, you know, she received criticism on the left for that comment do not come because she was essentially, you know, signaling disdain for the rights of asylum seekers under both federal law and international refugee conventions. Um, and, and sending this sort of mixed message of, you know, we understand you're not coming here unless you absolutely have to, but at the same time, don't come. Speaker 4: 10:41 As far as the criticism that I felt was most warranted was, you know, the vice-president failed and continues to fail, to adequately address the United States role in creating and aggravating, the root causes of displacement. Often when, when us leaders talk about violence and corruption and poverty south of the border, they, they talk about it as if it's somehow innate to these countries and that just fuels racist tropes. And doesn't get at the real issue. The vice-president needs to acknowledge that the us has financed decades of coups and central America and poured billions of dollars and continues to pour billions of dollars in us, guns and resources into right-wing militaries and, and death squads that have historically protected us investments in the region and massacred black and indigenous communities. Speaker 1: 11:28 So many headlines and stories on the border. Use the word crisis to describe the influx of migrants. And in recent months, this word carries a lot of baggage. Do you think it's appropriate? Well, Speaker 4: 11:40 So the problem with this word is, is that it's often used to create the impression of a national security crisis, and this is not a national security crisis. It's a humanitarian crisis. You know, the, the, most of the people who are arriving in United States are people from central America who are fleeing decades of, of violence and, and, and extreme poverty that is tied to us foreign policy in the region. And this term crisis has historically been used to stoke white racial anxieties in the United States. This idea that the United States is being invaded or overwhelmed by, um, non white people going as far back as the late 18 hundreds, when we saw large waves of immigration from China, and it's often used to justify increased militarization, mass incarceration and human rights violations. The other thing about this term is it just doesn't make sense. Numerically. The influx that we are seeing at the border right now is largely repeat offenders. So people who are being immediately deported under a policy that Trump put in place that turns back most asylum seekers using the pandemic as, as the reason. And these are people who are then immediately coming back because they are desperate. So if you look at the apprehensions, tens of thousands of these are the same people crossing again and again, Speaker 1: 12:56 The Biden administration appears to be making moves to get its people in place at the border in leadership positions of the various agencies. And it, uh, this week reportedly forced border patrol, chief, Rodney Scott into retirement. Now he was a holdover from the Trump era. What conclusions, if any, can we draw from this shakeup? Speaker 4: 13:15 Well, I think the Biden administration is trying to change the culture of this agency. A culture of dehumanization that was encouraged under the Trump administration, in which the highly political, uh, very far right border patrol union, the national border patrol council was really emboldened and empowered, uh, under Trump and allowed to dictate a lot of the policies without the normal checks and balances. And, you know, Rodney Scott was, was a part of that. And I think the Biden administration is trying to kind of move away from that. You interviewed Speaker 1: 13:46 Rodney Scott several times for KPBS when he was leading operations here locally, how would you characterize his leadership of the agency? Well, I Speaker 4: 13:54 Think it's important to remember that Rodney Scott was a member of this secret Facebook group that was exposed by the intercept and ProPublica in which, you know, thousands of border patrol agents were members including him. Um, and they often exchanged racist and sexist means including laughing and joking about migrant children's deaths. He opposed the Biden administration's decision to replace dehumanizing language, such as quote, illegal alien with more human language, such as non-citizen or migrant. And in San Diego, Rodney Scott was part of this very militaristic response to asylum seekers in 2018, uh, which was one of the events that I covered for KPBS. When you saw tear gas unleashed on mothers and children who had marched to the border fence to seek asylum. And in 2010, he signed a subpoena for autopsy records related to the case of NSSE or nonessential class, which is another story that I covered. He's a Mexican father who was repeatedly tased, stripped, and ultimately killed by a mob of border and immigration officers at the San Ysidro port of entry. And there are allegations that this subpoena that Rodney Scott signed was illegal in that it was part of a broader cover-up within the agency that the Inter-American commission on human rights is currently investigating. So his, his tenure, his time at, at border patrol has, you know, been included some, some very controversial incidents Speaker 1: 15:27 Latest for the LA times is an op-ed that argues for the passage of the citizenship for essential workers act, tell us about what this bill would do and whom it would benefit. Speaker 4: 15:37 So this, this bill is, is very important because it aims to protect the nearly 5 million undocumented essential workers who kept our economy functional during the pandemic. That includes healthcare workers, farm workers, construction workers, domestic workers, and others who were deemed essential by, you know, the Trump administration's own department of Homeland security, which told them that they had to keep going to work. And this bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for them, as well as for the family members of people, of these essential workers who died from COVID. So this bill aims to protect them. And, you know, it's, it's the UC Davis and the center for American progress found that legalizing this group would inject, uh, $989 billion into the economy long-term and create hundreds of thousands of jobs and boost American workers wages. Overall. Speaker 1: 16:33 Now we'll be seeing more of your work in the LA times, as soon as you join the staff as a full-time columnist, congratulations, by the way, what do you plan on focusing on with this new platform? Speaker 4: 16:43 So I'll be talking about a lot of the issues that I've been covering for the past few years, and I'm reporting further on them, Latinos, immigration, border issues, but also disinformation white identity politics, extreme extremism in its various forms and, and, you know, threats to democracy. Overall, Speaker 1: 17:04 We look forward to seeing more from you in the coming weeks. I've been speaking with author reporter and soon to be columnist Jean Guerrero, whose latest op-ed appears in the LA times. Gene always a pleasure. Thank you for joining us. Thanks so much. Rent is due in a few days for millions of Californians, many of them struggling through the pandemic to avoid eviction while lawmakers in Sacramento work to extend protections that are set to expire. At the end of the month, we're getting an updated look at San Diego's growing homeless population, and one neighborhood where advocates say it's near a crisis level. Lisa Halverstadt covers this issue extensively for voice of San Diego and joins us now, Lisa, welcome to the program. Thanks for having me, Andrew, let's start with some of the numbers. What is most recent data that we have on downtown homelessness? What kind of picture does it paint? Speaker 5: 17:54 So one important thing to know is that downtown is unique because it's the only neighborhood that gets a monthly census of its homeless population and a business group. The downtown San Diego partnership takes a tally every month. And more recently, they've also started counting. So people in the outskirts of downtown, in addition to downtown streets and in their latest count end of last month, they counted 800 people staying on downtown streets, which in and of itself was more than 20% increase from April. But dozens of camps have also gone up on the outskirts of downtown and recent months. So Barrio Logan, Sherman Heights, some in golden hill, also alongside freeways in those areas and the partnership kind of 357 people in those surrounding areas last month, which was up from 221 people in April. So quite an increase downtown Speaker 1: 18:49 San Diego has always been a kind of hub for homeless shelters, homeless services. So it stands to follow of course, that that's where homelessness and street homelessness is the most visible. But what is different about the situation now? Well, Speaker 5: 19:02 You know, certainly downtown remains the epicenter of homeless services. And I do want to say, you know, homeless San Diego, that I talk to often tell me that's what keeps them there, but what both homeless people and housed people and business owners who live, who live and work in the area are telling me is that they're not only seeing more people on the streets these days, but they're also seeing more open drug use and more erratic behavior. There are many more people, and there seem to also be more people who have mental health and addiction challenges. Speaker 1: 19:33 Mayor Todd Gloria said that the current situation is quote, wholly unacceptable and he's pledging some new actions in the coming weeks. What will the city be doing? Speaker 5: 19:42 So last week, mayor Gloria announced that there's going to be a month long focused homeless outreach effort on downtown streets, starting on June 28th, to try to connect people staying on downtown streets with services and shelter. He also said that the city's in the process of opening up about 300 city funded shelter beds that had been unavailable due to social distancing concerns before the state's June 15th, reopening Gloria and county supervisor, Nathan Fletcher also announced a new city county initiative to open up 75 so-called safe Haven beds, uh, in the city for homeless people who are dealing with serious drug and mental health challenges. Folks who agree to use these would be connected with both care and a safe place to stay in a different environment than shelters, which don't always appeal to folks with these challenges or work Speaker 1: 20:32 For them in 2017 during the hepatitis a outbreak, which was really centered downtown and in the homeless population, the city operated a safe campground for unsheltered people. This was at a city operations yard at the Southern end of Balboa park. Tell us about the debate over that model and, and whether it should return. Speaker 5: 20:52 So the downtown San Diego partnership has really been pushing the city to think about temporary solutions like we talked about, and they're pointing back to this model from back in 2017, as you mentioned, where, um, a city yard at 20th and be streets in golden hill was essentially converted into a safe campground where they set up tents were homeless. People could stay in individual tents on people were staying multiple people to attend. Um, and they provided services and, um, were able to connect people, staying there, some of them with housing or in the future shelter. One of the concerns about this model, according to the mayor, uh, because, uh, the partnership has been pushing this with him is he doesn't believe that this is necessarily necessarily a national best practice and sort of questions, whether it's, you know, a good use of funds. And if there are nonprofits that would want to run this. Interestingly, I talked to alpha project, which had run this operation back in 2017 during the hepatitis a outbreak and the CEO, Bob McElroy, you know, explained to me that this was a really challenging operation to run. And he's not actually sure that he would want to do it again. Um, but it doesn't seem like the conversation on this is ending. And I would expect, um, that the partnership will continue to push for this sort of solution. Speaker 1: 22:19 You said that there have been a number of complaints about more open drug use and erratic behavior downtown. And these are, these complaints are not just coming from the well-off downtown residents in those pricey high rises. You also spoke with people experiencing homelessness about these safety concerns. Ted, tell us what they told you. Speaker 5: 22:38 Yes. I spoke to a number of people living on the street and Rubin and Dean who I quoted in the story and others I spoke with who who've been on the street downtown for years say that they have really noticed a shift. Again, they say that they're seeing more people who seem to have mental health challenges and to be using drugs openly. There's a feeling that some of the others that are living on the street are unpredictable and even threatening. Um, and, and folks will tell you that living on the street has always come with risks and it's never been a very safe existence, but it just seems worse to them now. And, and Rubin who I mentioned, he admitted that he now goes to sleep every night, hoping that he won't be attacked while he's asleep. Speaker 1: 23:22 President Biden spoke this week about the rise in violent crime. In many American cities, it's become a bit of a national storyline and experts are still trying to figure out why that's happening. But in your story, you quoted mayor. Gloria is saying that crime and homelessness should not be lumped together. Why does he say that? Speaker 5: 23:40 So he would say that homeless people should be conflated with criminals. Like you said, Gloria is among the local leaders and national leaders who have said that homelessness in and of itself, shouldn't be considered a crime and a point that he and others who make this point often make is that homeless people are actually often targeted by robbers, drug dealers, other criminals. And this is certainly something I've seen in my work as well, is that homeless people are often crime victims Speaker 1: 24:08 Reported on this issue for years. Are there any other dynamics at play right now that would make any real progress, more likely to happen, or on the other hand, with the threat of evictions looming, could we see this get even worse? Well, Speaker 5: 24:21 The city, the county, the state, and even the federal government are preparing to invest a lot more resources into addressing this problem. The city and the county are planning to collectively spend an additional, roughly $95 million on homelessness in the next year with the help obviously of these federal stimulus funds that have, have bolstered their budgets. Uh, there's also more coordination between the city and the county than there has historically been when it comes to addressing this crisis. But to your point, uh, that doesn't mean that homelessness might not boom, due to evictions and other sort of aftershocks of the pandemic. One thing I think is really important, uh, to keep in mind, whenever you're thinking about homelessness is that it is not a static problem. It's not enough just to move people off the street to address it, to put a real dent in homelessness. Cities have to also catch people quickly and help them before they end up on the street. And there could be a lot more people who need that help and coming up, Speaker 1: 25:23 I've been speaking with Lisa hablar stat reporter for voice of San Diego and Lisa, thanks for your reporting on this issue. Thanks for having me that wraps up this week's edition of the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank our guests, Christina Kim, from KPBS news, Jean Guerrero, from the LA times, and Lisa Halverstadt from voice of San Diego. If you missed any part of our discussion, you can listen anytime on the KPBS round table podcast. I'm Andrew Bowen. Thanks for listening and join us next week on the round table. Speaker 2: 26:01 [inaudible].

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Racist taunting by fans at a high school basketball game leads to one of the coaches losing his job, Vice-President Kamala Harris visits the border region in Texas, and the latest rise in downtown San Diego's homeless population.