As I pondered what to write about for this month’s column, I met up with an SF police officer for coffee at the coffee shop at the corner of 26th Avenue and Geary Boulevard.
We are old friends, and after we caught up on the happenings of our children, families and ourselves, we began a conversation that started with him saying, “Man, San Francisco is a mess. Neighbors are hating each other, and everything seems to be fractured.” After two hours of discussion, I thought this would be a perfect time to propose, “Why don’t we all take a break from hate this year?”
2022 was not a good year for San Francisco and San Franciscans. We became deeply divided as a city. There are many reasons for this. We had four elections in one year because people cannot, even during a public health crisis, work together toward real solutions. That worked to divide us. Emotions ran high and we turned on each other.
This year we all get a break. No elections this year. No rhetoric to divide us. No slanderous mailers and TV commercials. This year we get a breather. Let’s take it and run with it. Let’s tackle the hard task of actually doing something about the issues facing us. Let’s hear real solutions about homelessness, how to attack the fentanyl crisis and how to rebuild a city that has depended heavily on the tech industry which is now tanking.
How do we build back in a way that includes San Franciscans, instead of constantly looking for remedies that displace San Franciscans. How do we build back a workforce that works for us, the residents of San Francisco? How do we hire teachers, bus drivers, police officers and healthcare workers? How can we address the Black infant mortality rate which is among the highest in the nation?
First, we stop fighting. If I were talking to my children I would say, “Knock it off!” But since I am addressing adults, I will just say, “Stop the hate. Move on. Use your energy to move us forward.”
We missed a tremendous opportunity during the pandemic. We missed the opportunity to work together, to tap into what has always been our strength through any crisis: a fire that destroyed the City, the double murder of our mayor and a supervisor, an earthquake in 1989 that shook us to our core and an attack from the president on our sanctuary city policy. We fought those crises together.
Unity has always been our strength, our infallible secret weapon to success.
Instead, we have let ourselves be divided. We have always had differences of opinions in San Francisco. It is fodder for our media and our everyday conversations, but we have always been a city that has moved forward. We have had forward-thinking ideas, like marrying same sex couples and creating the first Department of Children, Youth and Families with funds specifically earmarked for families.
When I was supervisor of District 1, I created an initiative called One Richmond. It has four basic tenets: 1) In the Richmond we are inclusive, 2) In the Richmond we take care of each other, 3) In the Richmond we take care of the Richmond and 4) We shop and eat locally.
In 2018, it seemed such a simple concept that everyone could and should do a One Richmond thing every day. It could be as simple as saying hello to your neighbor, picking up a piece of garbage that isn’t yours or buying coffee at a local coffee shop.
Can we, as the Richmond, get back there? Can we forgive our neighbors for having a difference of opinion? Can we appreciate that we live in a beautiful part of the world that still protects a woman’s right to choose? Can we get to a higher level of love to bring us out of the darkness? Can we give hate a rest this year and dig deep to find the love for our City, its people and its importance?
We can find our way back to being a community that cares for one another, but it starts with each of us. We all need to take personal responsibility for the community we want our neighborhood to be. Start small with picking up your garbage and throwing your own garbage away in its proper place. Show our streets and sidewalks some neighborhood love. Then say hello to your neighbors and other folks in the ‘hood. Shop and/or eat at a local small business. Push back on people spewing hate.
Let’s give hate a rest; 2023 is giving us an opportunity to do just that.
Sandra Lee Fewer is a fourth-generation Chinese-American San Franciscan, former Board of Education commissioner, former member of the SF Board of Supervisors representing the Richmond District and has lived in the Richmond for more than 60 years.