About 30 black demonstrators marched two miles to City Hall in Carson Tuesday carrying anti-racism signs to protest what they say is a lack of black representation in high-level city posts.
“We’re trying to get across that the African-American community of Carson is not satisfied with not having any directors in upper-management positions,” said Marvin Clayton, president of the Carson branch of the NAACP. “We’re 29% of the community, and we feel we should have at least one black director,” Clayton said before the march. “We want a voice.”
There are two vacancies among the city’s seven department heads. Protesters urged city officials to fill at least one of them with a qualified black. City officials said appointments for the public works and finance positions should be made within two months.
Carson Mayor Mike Mitoma denied in an interview that the city discriminates against minorities and said he plans to resign as a member of the local NAACP because of its assertions that the city is racist in its hiring practices.
Mitoma, who is Asian, said city officials will not set aside any positions for specific races, although, he said, hiring is always with minority representation in mind. “We’re hopefully looking for a minority director who is qualified, but we’re not going to specify any group.”
The mayor said statistics refute assertions that the city’s hiring practices discriminate against certain ethnic groups.
Census figures of 1980 showed that the city was about 32% white, 29% black, 23% Latino, 15% Asian/Pacific Islander and 1% American Indian. A city survey in July showed that the city’s 318 employees are 33% white, 26% black, 21% Latino, 19% Asian/Pacific Islander and 1% American Indian.
Of the five City Council members, two are white, one is black, one is Asian and one is Latino. John Anderson, the only black council member, refused to comment on the protesters’ allegations.
“It’s unusual for a city (government) to reflect the ethnic balance of the community,” Mitoma said. “This city has made an effort.”
But Clayton said a closer reading of the statistics shows that blacks are represented at the bottom and middle levels but not in the city staff’s top decision-making positions. Clayton read a statement at the meeting demanding that city officials respond to the protesters’ allegations within 45 days. Council members did not respond to Clayton’s statement.
‘Make System Right’
At a rally outside City Hall before the meeting, Clayton said: “We have to get involved in the system and work with the system to make the system right.”
Victoria McKinney, a former city employee who participated in the march, said racism within City Hall forced her to take a stress disability leave from her job managing a Carson job program.
“They have a very systematic way of dealing with people of color,” she said. ". . . When we have council people who say we don’t have racism in this city, who are they kidding?”
Mitoma said racism was not a factor in McKinney’s case, although he declined to discuss it in detail, citing the confidentiality of personnel issues.
Mitoma accused Clayton of organizing the march to seek support for a possible City Council campaign in April, 1990, a charge that Clayton denied.
“He is trying to find an issue, and this is his method,” Mitoma said. “We have never had racial disharmony in the city. When improper information is given to people, it creates racial unrest.”
Clayton said he will seek a seat on the council only if he receives support from the community. He said his plans are on hold because of his responsibilities as president of the Carson branch of the NAACP.