MILL VALLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- The mayor of Mill Valley has issued an apology after a comment she made that seemed to dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement and racial issues in her own community.
During the city council meeting on Monday, a public commenter said a "White Silence is Violence" sign that he posted in town was torn down within hours. He asked what Mill Valley is doing to show that Black Lives Matter.
Community members are criticizing how Mayor Sashi Mcentee responded. "It is our council policy that we do not take action on issues that are not of immediate local importance," Mcentee said, "But we appreciate hearing everybody's comments."
In aninitial statement released Tuesday, Mcentee said she recognized the concerns about her comment.
"After reviewing the video, I understand your concerns," she said. "Let me be clear that the tragic death of George Floyd is of immediate local importance along with being a national issue." She went on to say that as a person of color herself she understands the importance of words and has been on the receiving end of bigotry. She explained that her comments, "referred to a long-standing City Council policy regarding national issues and a policy that prevents councilmembers from discussing items that are not previously agendized in accordance with the law."
Mcentee released asecond statement on Wednesdaywhere she formally apologized and said she stands with the protesters and those calling for justice for George Floyd. She called on community members to gather at 5p.m. on Thursday in Mill Valley to address these issues.
Still, the remark itself is bringing to light deeper issues in Mill Valley, including issues of privilege in a community that is predominantly white.
J.C. Farr is the principal, and the first black principal, at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley. He says issues of race are very local.
"We have less than 20% students of color, and about 4-5% African-Americans," Farr said, "And so there's a social adjustment that takes place when students come to Tam that creates real challenges...you have to be able to code switch a lot more."
The issues, however, are not alone to Mill Valley. Other suburban areas in the Bay Area, including Corte Madera and Greenbrae, have been restricting access to some malls and beefing up security out of fears potential protests and violence could make their way to the quiet suburbs.
"It's not surprising to me to see progressives, liberal, when the issues come to knock on their front door, respond in similar ways to conservatives," Farr said.
"It's almost like it's OK as long as it is over there," he added. "When it starts to get too close to home, then you really start to see people's true belief systems."
Farr says for people who want to be an ally the best thing to do is do your homework.
He is not joining the calls for Mayor Mcentee to step down, but said it is time for all communities to confront these issues even if uncomfortable.
"I'm not about canceling people. I believe you have to examine their track record," Farr said. "We need everyone to engage in a meaningful dialogue that I think would make us better, so I think this is an opportunity to make us a better, stronger, wiser community through this situation."
This article has been corrected to reflect the difference in the mayor's two statements.
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