Stockton’s racist past

The Ku Klux Klan parades down Stockton's Weber Avenue, July 14, 1919. Photo Courtesy The Haggin Museum.

George Skelton has a strong column in the L.A. Times about California’s racist baggage.

“When it comes to racism and bigotry, California admittedly can’t be too smug,” Skelton writes. “The state ranks No. 1 in the nation for hate groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. There are 79 active here.

“There’s also our shameful history, although we’ve mostly owned up to past sins and steadily become more tolerant.”

Skelton goes on to tour California’s Hall of Shame: genocide against Native Americans; virulent discrimination against Asians, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act; and so on, up through 1994′s Prop 209, denying public services to illegal immigrants.

In mentioning cities and things name for Confederates — Ft. Bragg, and the like — Skelton touches on Stockton. “A Stockton street was named for Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson.”

Far more than that, Mr. Skelton. As I wrote in 2015, Stockton’s founder Charles M. Weber, purged the city of streets named for Confederate Generals, but the developer of Lincoln Village brought many Confederate names back.

That was merely a developer’s subdivision theme inspired by Lincoln Road, which runs through Lincoln Village. The developer apolitically paired confederate names with Union names, too.

But a history of Stockton’s racism would find some of California’s worst transgressions. Murderous hatred of Chinese argonauts; laws prohibiting Japanese from owning land; laws forbidding Asians from living north of downtown; exploitation of migrant workers; redlining of African-American homebuyers; CC&Rs prohibiting sales of northiside homes to people of color; de facto segregation by Stockton Unified schools; and our own act of domestic terrorism, the Cleveland Schoolyard massacre.

Stockton even had a robust chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.

I mention this not to guilt trip anyone. I say this because it’s true. Some are willfully blind to it, and because that blindness allies itself with the racism that is surging across the country, we have to own our past. That is an act of humility. It cautions us to the depths to which we can sink. All we have to do is accept the idea that some people belong above others and the parade is on.

–Photo courtesy The Haggin Museum


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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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