Sounding Off: 'Rule' echoes of racist 1992 incident

All my life I have been proud of being from Costa Mesa, a multicultural city with great neighborhoods and wonderful people. This pride has turned to embarrassment and disappointment in the wake of Costa Mesa's adoption of the Rule of Law statement and all that it entails.

I cannot help but think of the irony in light of the Costa Mesa that I grew up in. In September of 1992, during my junior year at Estancia High School, our city faced a defining moment: A student who graduated that year went onto the football field at half time, with the coach's permission, to throw the ball around with some other visiting graduates — all former footballers. Back in 1992, as I recall, Estancia's home football games were mostly played at Newport Harbor High School because the Estancia campus didn't have its own stadium.

That night the student was singled out by the Newport Beach police, who were monitoring the game. He was harassed, and when he questioned the abusive treatment, he was knocked to the ground and arrested on suspicion of being a gang member based on the color of the skin and the clothes on his back.

He was dressed just like any other kid from Costa Mesa and Newport Beach that night. As a school and as a city, we rallied around him. We stood in opposition of the racist practices of the Newport Beach police officers. At our next football game, which was also being patrolled by the Newport Beach police, the entire school (including some parents) dressed up in "gang attire" and wore T-shirts painted with the question, "Am I a gang member too?"

We all want and support the rule of law but we cannot allow these words to become a polite cover for racist policies that subjugate and dehumanize half of our city. How many people will be singled out, harassed and abused because of the color of their skin? How many residents, neighbors and friends will now be living with a sense of fear and dread instead of a sense of community and security?

I want Costa Mesa to be known for what it is — a city of inclusiveness, a city of community and a city that welcomes and appreciates its residents who come from a wide variety of cultures, religions and ethnicities.

Where is our statement of appreciation to all of Costa Mesa's residents for their contributions that make our city such a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family? As we did in 1992, let us use our words to inspire community, solidarity and wholeness. Then we can be proud of Costa Mesa.

Rabbi Deborah Marcus

Port Washington, N.Y.

Estancia High School, Class of 1994

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