“They were a political gang that got together and blocked this young lady, London Breed, from filling her seat,” said Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP. On March 21, Brown filed a complaint accusing the San Francisco Board of Supervisors of holding secret meetings (which are illegal under state law) in order to force London Breed out of her interim mayor position. Even the most progressive cities are not immune to difficult conversations about race and politics, but this conversation is necessary. You do not need to agree with Breed’s politics to see that she was treated unfairly.
As a black woman who is majoring in politics, I’ve been asked about this a lot from people hoping that I would have some groundbreaking, wise opinion on the matter. While this was never said directly to me, I always felt like people would assume that of course I’d be sympathetic to London Breed because of our shared race. There has always been an assumption that minorities only support politicians due to shared identity rather than their policy positions, and it’s harmful and insulting.
London Breed is not the first politician to receive an interim spot for the position she’s running for. Yet, the reason the Board of Supervisors gave was that because Breed was running for mayor before Ed Lee’s death, it would be unfair to the other candidates for Breed to be acting mayor and run for mayor at the same time. During her short time as interim mayor, she did nothing to show that she was abusing her position. If she did, then it would have been appropriate to have her removed after those actions. According to her opponents, London Breed was too cozy with the tech industry. Yet, it was okay to have Farrell, a man who worked at a venture capital firm, replace her. In fact, representatives of Mayor Mark Farrell’s venture capital firm expect to reap “long-term benefits” from his term as mayor, according to a letter sent to the company’s partners the morning after he was sworn in.
You cannot talk about London Breed without talking about what African Americans have endured in San Francisco, from “urban renewal” leading to mass evictions during the 1950s (London Breed herself lived in public housing that was torn down) to police shootings of unarmed civilians to gentrification leading to the displacement of communities of color in order to make room for tech companies. In 1970, one in seven San Francisco residents were African American – today, only one in five are. To many, London Breed’s ousting is just another example of San Francisco showing that they don’t want us here.
To me, one of the most disheartening things to see is how little respect the supervisors seem to have for African Americans who feel hurt by their decision. You can argue that it was fine and necessary for London Breed to be removed, but politicians are failing at acknowledging the reactions to this decision. Hillary Ronen, a member of the San Francisco Board, told people that, “It’s time to move on… we appointed an interim mayor, we didn’t violate any laws. Now let’s talk about the real issues that voters care about.” Do voters not care about potential racism in their politics? Do voters not care if their representatives held secret meetings, as the NAACP is claiming? Ronen does not have to regret her decision, but she should at least acknowledge the views of those who disagree with her.
I am personally not a particular fan of Supervisor Breed, and she would certainly not be my first choice of mayor. However, I can see that she has been the victim of a double standard, and the way politicians are responding is rude and offensive. We, as a city, need to be better than this, and telling people to “get over it” is not the way to start.
Featured Photo: One does not have to agree with London Breed to understand that, to many, her treatment embodies the racism of this city. Pax Ahimsa Gethen / Wikimedia