I can still remember the first time I felt a calling to politics. It was a hot, sunny day back in 2015. I remember being told during a school gathering that we were scheduled to listen to an alumnus present an award to Justin-Siena on behalf of the California State Senate.
As one of the few brown kids in the densely seated crowd, I was enthralled with learning more about this mysterious politician, someone who I eventually came to know as Sen. Bill Dodd. I remember anxiously waiting behind my white peers to take a picture with him, but shortly-after being chastised for being “too ambitious.” (To clarify, Sen. Dodd has always been a supportive friend to me. I eventually interned in his district office. I only bring him up to fully illustrate my story.)
The reason I recount this memory is because my early sense of normalcy was informed by that very moment: a bisexual Latino listening to a straight, white politician speak to a sea of primarily cis white, wealthy students.
Digging deeper, it was an allegory for the political culture in Napa politics too. Brown folks are expected to sit back and listen, especially those who feel insecure about their pronunciation skills like I did. We are expected to “wait our turn” because even the slightest political inconvenience would somehow translate to party betrayal. Though they are never injurious in intention, I have been on the receiving end of these miserably demoralizing lectures.
And yet, the people who demand we wait our turn, many of whom in positions of power, are the same folks who marched with the Black Lives Matter movement and stood in solidarity with Pride demonstrations in Napa.
I want to be very clear: if you march loudly with the BIPOC (“Black, Indigenous, and People of Color”) and Queer community, but do not support our empowerment, you are not part of the solution and must do better to recognize the inequity that exists in our city. Performative activism is a dangerous cancer, and it runs deep in our community.
Before I go too far, I want to clarify a misconception: BIPOC empowerment does not equate white erasure. On the contrary, it is important in the fight for justice that we stand united, regardless of sex, color, or creed. However, if we do not put the gift of life at the hard employments of justice, our city will not have anywhere to hide from indignation of history.
This year, the city of Napa has an opportunity to right an injustice too long ignored. In the history of this city of great potential, no Hispanic or Latino has ever been duly elected to the office of Napa mayor.
Despite composing 2/5ths of the population, my brown brothers and sisters have questioned whether hope exists for Latinx representation. But against the odds, Gerardo Martin has put his name forward to lead our city and, in doing so, he has kindled a flame of hope. He brings an unmatched perspective as a single father of three, small business leader, and community servant.
If you truly want to stand in solidarity with the BIPOC community and me, you have a chance to reject complicity and support progress: a fuller realization of democracy and equality enjoyed by all persons. But beware, where complicity lies acceptable, there festers corruption.
I say to each of you, the era in which our power-brokers sacrificed the Latino community in the name of political calculation and convenience is over. It will not take much to reject Doris Gentry’s divisive politics. But it will take great courage to thank Scott Sedgley for his service and acknowledge the time for a progressive Latino mayor is now. I am calling each of you to rise to this challenge.
I want to leave with you an abridged excerpt from Orson Welles’ Commentaries of 1946:
“America can write her name across this century, and so she will
Rise now to the great occasion of our brotherhood
It calls for the doing of great deeds, which means the dreaming of great dreams
Giving the world back to its inhabitants is too big a job for the merely practical
We strive and pray and die for what will be here when we're gone
Our children's children are the ancestors of a free people
To the generations: the fight is worth it”
It is upon each of us to toil in the cause of justice. If you want to transform your activism from performance to action, share your time, talent, treasure, and sweat with Gerardo’s campaign. I want to leave behind a city where my brown children will stand in awe of our community, because we will have chosen an abiding hope for the future.
Juan Carlos Mora
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