I want to take the time to tell you about contemporary racism. It is not the kind of racism that screams NIGGER at you when you are walking down the street. It is the kind of racism that questions your human right to occupy the space of a white person that feels that they are entitled to occupy. It is not the kind of racism that will lock a door when they see you trying to come in. It is the kind of racism that questions your motives for walking in the door. It is not the kind of racism that will tell you that you cannot do something or hold a position because you are a person of color. It’s the kind of racism that will try to find reasons of inadequacies and disqualifications to shade the real reason that they do not want to see you hold a particular position, because you are not white. It is not the kind of racism that you get down South where they are still very obnoxious about their privilege, where they still have lynchings and separate proms. It’s the kind of racism that shows up in a small California city where privileged men believe that no matter how accomplished a woman of color is, she has no place in a position that they feel should be occupied by them and only them. It was almost refreshing to hear Wayne Craig, a resident of Redondo Beach, assert that I, Tonya McKenzie, am not qualified for a position that I was nominated for by the Redondo Beach City Manager because he, Wayne Craig, was a better choice.
I am concerned that I have been the target of a slander campaign for no other reason that I am an African American woman in Redondo Beach, California. I am not sure who all is involved but what I do know is that they are all white men. Many of them hide behind Facebook posts and aliases. At least one of them, I have never met. At least one of the administrators of one of the pages that posts nasty things about me has regularly been exceedingly kind and pleasant in my face, just to turn around and continue cyber-slander.
What I do know for sure is that long-time, Redondo Beach resident and real estate agent, Wayne Craig entered his name into consideration for the North Redondo Beach Business Association (NRBBA) Board of Directors in June of 2019. As the new president, I reached out to him and in a July 8th email, he confirmed that he was interested in serving on the board. On July 10th, Wayne came to an NRBBA Board Meeting to plead his case. Although I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, the rest of the board was not so agreeable. On August 5th, 2019, Wayne Craig sent me a pitch deck for a company that he was trying to start called iTrustIt at https://itrustit.com/, likening it to a YELP for Redondo Beach. On 11/18/2019, Mr. Craig reached out to me again, petitioning for a seat on our Board of Directors. On 11/19/2019, I responded to Wayne’s letter by letting him know that our Executive Board was full, but I would be happy to have him work alongside of me to build membership and even implement his new app. Once a seat became available, I would revisit the opportunity. I never heard back from him. On 11/23/19, I reached back out to Wayne Craig with the following in my email, “To follow up with my last email, I wanted to find out if you would like to be a Block Captain/Ambassador for signing up participants in the Walkabout? I could use your help and it would be a truly big show of good-will. It would help others (and myself) get to know you better and have a real chance to work with you. It would also give you a superb opportunity to speak with business owners about your new service”.
I still never heard back. So, I let it go and proceeded with the business of the NRBBA. On 1/6/2020, I followed up once again as we prepared to start doing the work to prepare for the WalkAbout, our biggest city-serving event. To this day, I have not heard from him. For a businessman that cannot find the time or courtesy to simply respond to an email, he seems to have a lot of time to write a lot of letters to the City of Redondo Beach and The Beach Reporter about me.
There have been many women in the past and currently that are not African American that has served as president or on the Executive Board for the NRBBA. Craig and cyber gang have never taken to a public forum to insult and degrade them. It has not been lost of me or anybody else in the community that Wayne Craig decided that when insulting me by myself was not enough in his first letter to the city, his next letter included another African American women that has absolutely nothing to do with the Disaster Council. What Wayne must understand is that I am a community builder. I communicate, collaborate, and have relationships with all of those that have positive intentions. It has become evident that throwing two Black women under the bus in a public forum with no evidence that it is warranted is clear cut racism. Wayne has made it noticeably clear where he stands regarding feeling like he can be blatantly malicious to the very few women of color in Redondo Beach. His racist behavior is outshining any qualifications that he touts.
If Wayne and his crew did the research, they would know that I was a part of the CSUN rebuilding after the earthquake. If they did the research, they would know that I am not thirsty to fluff my resume with political positions. I served on the Contra Costa County Commission in my 20’s. I am not new to this. I have held positions of leadership that have nothing to do with Redondo Beach. If they did their homework, they would know that I served for many years as a RED CROSS TRAINER. I trained trainers to save lives. I could go on. However, my qualifications are not an issue. The fact that Wayne Craig and his crew believe that my skin color deems me unqualified to fill a position to assist this city during a crisis is the issue.
At a time like this when the Redondo Beach community needs to come together, it is disappointing that Wayne Craig has chosen to devote time and air his negative opinion about somebody that has only acted to serve this community. It is shameful that he chose to begin attacking this newly formed committee in place to serve the city and its members. Clearly at this time where we are in a crisis, Wayne Craig demonstrates why the community and organization leaders who are responsible for selecting individuals that can be collaborative and work together do not choose him.
The Redondo Beach Disaster Council is just getting started to be informative and assist the city while we are in uncharted territory. We need for the committee to hear what is coming out of the collective and coalesce on an honest but positive proactive plan for the future. We are community members and business leaders not political appointees. We find solutions through our community resources. If Wayne Craig is not seen as a resource, this is nobody’s issue other than his.
We are building new roads here. Our job is to reach people and keep them positive. We must plan for disasters and learn from past mistakes. We are all learning how to create a new reality and plan for the future of Redondo Beach. This should be the focus, not the negativity that continuously comes from a man and his friends upset that he was not chosen for the NRBBA board position or member of the Disaster Council.