Letters to the Editor: On Arroyo Grande Cross Burning

March 22, 2011 

Safety and security

Americans increasingly represent a wide variety of races, colors and religions. However, there are those among us who cannot accept this fact and may act out accordingly.

Last Friday, a cross was burned in front of a black teenager’s home in Arroyo Grande. The Arroyo Grande Police Department has said that it takes this case very seriously and is conducting an extensive investigation. We commend the police department for this. Burning crosses, swastikas on synagogue walls, and hateful words on mosque doors are not pranks. They are hate crimes meant to frighten and intimidate. They should have no place in this beautiful county, but they do sometimes happen here. When they do, they cannot be tolerated or laughed off as “just a joke.”

We, the members of the San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association, ask everyone to join us in working to increase understanding and kindness among all our fellow humans. San Luis Obispo County cannot really be the happiest place in America until and unless all people can feel safe and secure in their homes and in their lives.

Rev. Stephanie Raphael

Interfaith Ministry and president of the San Luis Obispo Ministerial Association (SLOMA)

Rev. Rich Kurrasch

Disciples of Christ (retired), SLOMA and Central Coast Clergy and Laity for Justice

Rev. Steven Mabry

Plymouth Congregational Church United Church of Christ of Paso Robles & SLOMA

Rev. Loire Adoff

California Men’s Colony

Rev. Sean Parker Dennison

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Richard and Lois Allen

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Rev. Nancy Ballinger

Awakening Interfaith Spiritual Community

Mark Bloodgood

Zen Center of Los Angeles

Rev. Susan Brecht

United Church of Christ of Atascadero

Spiritual Director Janise Rennie

Native American Spirituality

Rabbi Janise Mehring

Congregation Ohr Tzafon

Richard Carsel

Congregation Ohr Tzafon

Rabbi Scott Corngold

Congregation Beth David

Cantor Ricki Weintraub

Congregation Beth David

Dr. Faysal Kolkailah

Islamic Center of the Central Coast

Dr. Nisha Abdul-Cader

Bishop Olivia Doko

FCM and Roman Catholic Women Priests

Pastor Stephen Eastwood

Seventh Day Adventist Church

Rev. Marjorie Funk-Phil

Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church

Rev. Jana Schofield

Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church

Rev. Jane Voigts

United Methodist Church SLO

Rev. Paula Hulet

Estero Bay United Methodist Church

Rev. Berkeley Johnson

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church

Rev. Curt Miner

United Church of Christ, San Luis Obispo

Rev. Jim Nielsen (retired)

Presbyterian Church

Rev. Andrew McComb (retired)

Presbyterian Church

Patrick Ruth

Central Coast Friends

Bob Sachs

Tibetan Buddhist Teacher

Rev. Luanne Griguoli (retired)

Nipomo Presbyterian Church

Rev. David Smiley (retired)

Christian Community

Rabbi Jayne Simon

Hospice Partners of the Central Coast

Rabbi Norman Mendel (retired)

Congregation Beth David

Rabbi Lon Moskowitz

California Men’s Colony

Rev. Doug Graham

New Thought Spiritual Center

Deacon Chuck Roeder

Old Mission Church of San Luis Obispo

Isolated authorities

I found it somewhat curious the statements of persons in authority at the city of Arroyo Grande: such as the police commander who referred to this cross burning as possibly a “prank,” and the mayor who was concerned it not be portrayed as a “hate crime.”

Could these authorities be isolated from the realities and historical significance of cross burning? They should contact the Southern Poverty Law Center or its website. At least they say they are investigating it as a hate crime.

It is generally understood that cross burning has long been associated with the Ku Klux Klan’s method of intimidating blacks, Catholics and Jews.

Here a cross is burnt outside the bedroom of a young black girl. Her mother is obviously concerned and scared. The young girl was terrified. Was this done with the intent to intimidate? No great leap in logic here. Yet the authorities seem to downplay this.

Wonder what they would say if L.A. gang graffiti was spray painted on the police station or city hall? “This may be a prank, let’s be careful not to think this is gang activity.”

J. Jude Basile


Filled with horror

We began picketing against racial segregation in Oklahoma in 1958, five years before the horrors of the bridge in Selma.

The atmosphere of hate was like wading through a neck-high lake of molasses.

The ordinary-looking people who cursed us and threw things at us surprised me. I had naively thought that everyone else felt as I did; that is, that racial discrimination was an obviously and self-evidently wrong thing.

Boy, was I surprised.

Frat rats threw bricks and other things at us. One hit me with a brick. I was permanently removed from the picket line for not being a pacifist — I threw it back, missing my target by about 25 feet (profound embarrassment).

I became the behind-the-scenes sign painter thereafter.

I was amazed and gratified to see the election of Barack Obama only 50 years later, in 2008. After our hostile reception in 1958, I never imagined that it could happen.

The cross burning in Arroyo Grande fills me with horror and revulsion. How can this still be happening?

This disgusting and unacceptable act should be crushed by the full force of the police power of the state. I advocate the death penalty for the perpetrators of this despicable act.

Don Grant

San Luis Obispo

Go after bigots

I searched on Google for “cross burning on a black family’s lawn.” Nowhere could I find it called a “prank.” Racist, yes. Hate crime, yes. The police commander for Arroyo Grande called it possibly a prank, and the mayor was hesitant to categorize it as a hate crime.

Is it the 1960s all over again? We marched for equality during that time to make sure things like this don’t ever happen again.

If those in power don’t go after these bigots to the fullest extent of the law, we should elect those that would. Or maybe they know who did this evil deed and are trying to sweep it under the ashes.

Terry Speizer

Pismo Beach

Not who we are

To the family who woke up to the burning cross, I apologize on behalf of the people who live in and work in Arroyo Grande. What was done to you does not represent who we are.

I am embarrassed that city officials can’t figure out that this is a “hate crime”! Please, admit it, find out who did it, and help these people live in peace.

Susan Campbell

Arroyo Grande

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