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Local Artist Asks 'Is Santee a Racist Town...?'

Johnson: "I understand that Santee as an entire town cannot be classified as racist, but I do believe it takes an entire town to promote change."

See more photos from the art show

The piece that seemed to draw the most attention at the Santee Visions student art show Friday evening was titled "Is Santee a Racist Town...?" by 11th grade student Nala Johnson.

The collage of photography and digital design features quotes from Santee residents elaborating on question: "Is santee a racist town...?"

Johnson describes herself as an African-American who has lived in Santee for three years.

"Within those three years I have faced the most racism that I have ever experienced in my entire life," she wrote in a description of the artwork.

"I understand that Santee as an entire town cannot be classified as racist, but I do believe it takes an entire town to promote change."

Most of the quotes in the piece reflect the idea that Santee is not racist, but people within it can be. Here is a range of answers from the piece:

  • "No- I've lived here my whole life and have never seen this town like that."
  • "Yes and no. I see more of it in schools versus in the town."
  • "I think Santee CAN be a racist town, but over time we are accepting the racial diversity more and more."
  • "I have heard of many of my friends who are getting racial slurrs yelled at them when they walk home or even have had things thrown at them out of car windows."

COMMENT: What answer would you have given Johnson?

Also read:

  • Racism: Santee’s Diversity Stigma
  • A Student's Perspective: Don't Dismiss Racism

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

R. Ligon February 27, 2013 at 04:36 AM
I moved to Santee years ago to make available to my child a better school than where we used to live. We love The advantages that West Hills offers. After my child started her freshman year, she started telling me some of the comments that were being said behind her back. My child is African American. She would walk through a hallway then hear behind her "Hey it's Friday, lets have a lynching this weekend". There were times she told me that a car load of students would drive by her calling her the "N word telling her to get out of their school". Then her bike started being vandalized like every other day. The straw that broke the camels bake for me was when she started coming home with bloody scape's on her. Car loads of kids were throwing things out of the car window causing her to loose her balance on her bike, she would crash and get injured. In talking with other I found out that Santee has the nick name of Klan tee. This has passed thank goodness. I'm very happy to say that we have not had these problems out side of the school and it was just during her freshman year. I raised my kids to be color blind and this was hard to see my child go through. No child should go through through this and as a community it is up to us to make changes.
Batman February 27, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Even a black person who is a patriotic, taxpaying, loyal American is considered a racist under todays marxist ideology.
Sherri February 27, 2013 at 04:58 PM
wow, I find all of these posts very interesting. I personally have not seen any racism here in Santee, but I am as white as they come. I grew up in an extremely conservative and nearly 99% white town in Pennsylvania in the 80's. This town is pretty white, y'all! Having said that, I haven't heard anything from my daughter (yet!) from school, though it is Pepper Drive which I'm only guessing is more mixed. From my experiences growing up, the racism in a town like this is more hidden than largely expressed in the community. But I think it is obvious that the term "klantee" comes from somewhere, no? I'm sure things are much better than they used to be, but there is always room for change. Mary, I especially feel like you are pretty brave to say what you have and ask such pointed questions. May I also add that I NEVER experienced racism in my hometown either (umm 99% white and I'm one of them!)... however, as I grew up and became a teenager, I started seeing the ugliness of our "prestigious" town. I saw black families being run out of town mere months after moving in. I started putting together that I TRULY felt color blind, but the people around me, including my family certainly were not! I'm glad this girl had the courage to put this up as art, and it's not fair, by the way, to label it "art"...as art can not be defined. If this is how she is seeing our lovely town, perhaps we can give her voice some credence. BTW, the term "reverse racism" is racist in itself, LOL
comics.girl February 27, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Now how many of you are actually white commenters vs. black?
comics.girl February 27, 2013 at 06:34 PM
Now how many of you are actually white commenters vs. black?
adam paul February 27, 2013 at 10:21 PM
Mary, Santee and Lakeside used to be the Wild Wild West with a lot of hate etc. Ive grown up here since 1983. My dad before we moved here would always come through Santee for work making deliveries. There were a couple of instances of cross burning and even a nightclub being threatened by the KKK for having an African-American woman singer on stage. We used to have race fights at Santana when I went to school there but that all went away. It was mainly all the wannabees that picked the fights. I hear the stereo types still today and when I do I educate people on this. Sure stuff occurs but it occurs everywhere. Santee is a great community to live in and do business in and that won't change just because a few dumb wannabees try to do things. So anyone who still calls Santee any of the names doesn't know or has not been to Santee in a while. Santee isn't perfect because no place is and I wouldn't trade it for anywhere else.
Mary February 28, 2013 at 01:18 AM
@Adam - Unless you are of African-American descent, I don't really think you have the "end all perspective" of the issue. Others have seen the racism, and the black community is saying it still happens in the schools. Do you think these testimonies are all lies? I say it is something we (whites) need to be aware of, rather than say it doesn't happen here. It has been generations since slavery ended, why do you think Santee can solve the issue in 10-15 years? Be sensitive to other's problems is all I am saying.
adam paul February 28, 2013 at 10:02 AM
Mary, I don't need to be African American. I have my eyes and ears open all the time. I see and hear things all the time as I work at Santana High on both the Varsity Football and Girls basketballs staffs, plus I am still involved with the campus in major ways not just sports wise. I stick to my statement and others who have lived here a lot longer than you have said the same thing. When has the black community said these things? Have they said them at a city council meeting or school board meeting? This would be huge news if this was said at any of these meetings. Also it would be news to me because I have friends who attend every meeting of both the City Council and School board meetings. I am not saying that they are lies but they don't happen as frequently as you portray or as others claim. Like I said in my statement sure stuff occurs but it occurs everywhere and anyone who still calls it Klantee etc has not been to Santee in a while. Why do I think it can solve the issue in the time frame? Because like anywhere that had a reputation and a stigma they being the town and the people in as well as the politicians do due dillagence to clean the city up and make it a great place to live and do business in. These are the reasons why things aren't the way they used to be when it used to be the Wild Wild West.
Mary February 28, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Adam - No African American should have to attend and speak to the City Council or at a school board meetings in order for YOU to know what you haven’t witnessed. It is possible that complaints have been voiced or written that you may be unaware of. Various council members and even our mayor read the Patch as evidenced by various comments they submit, so I have to assume they don’t need a speaker officially bringing the issue up for the rest of you naysayers. I have not portrayed the frequency of incidents, just that it does continue to happen and if I was African American, once would be to much. Keep pretending, I choose to be aware and try to be a part of a solution.
adam paul February 28, 2013 at 07:07 PM
Mary - I know the mayor reads the Patch and even comments on articles etc. There is no assuming in life . I am not a naysayer and please don't even say that we are who counter comment what you say. If you want anything done you do more than just post on a site. You attend a City Council Meeting or a School Board Meeting etc. There doesn't have to be an official speaker. My mom wasn't an official speaker for anyone when speaking on the expansion of the Jail. She was a concerned citizen because we live right across the street from where it is. People who spoke out on the jail expansion were not official speakers. Also the retirement place next to where I live wasn't the official speaker when it came to getting a traffic light installed on Magnolia in front of their place. They were concerned citizens. If anything happens in this town it is known about because yes even though it has grown quite a bit word still gets around. By the way how long have you lived here in Santee? Also I was reading the other comments, what articles did you pull those from? From reading the comments you post some of the people it sounds like had never even set foot into Santee etc and just heard the nickname. Now I answered your question on why I believe the city can and has done to solve the issue in the time frame. Now I can't speak on West Hills since I don't any of the campus supervisors but I know all the campus supervisors at Santana and they haven't had the problems that used to exist there.
Mayor Randy Voepel February 28, 2013 at 07:34 PM
The Mayor does read these postings. Santee/Lakeside has always been branded with an unfair perception of raceism. In my 16 years in office, Santee has made great strides in combating raceism and all of the other ill's that would be negative on any minority (LBGT etc.). Is Santee perfect? Of course not, but we do have one of the lowest incidents of hate crimes in Southern California. Our Deputy Sheriff's are very sensitive to these issues and are dedicated to protecting everyone including all types of minorities. Our School Resource Officers, the Gang unit and every level of Santee safety/staff are didicated to equal opportunity. The best thing ANYONE can do if they see a racial or any threat, is to call it into the Sheriff's. One of my frustrations is that many citizens just complain about incidents but don't have the guts to press charges or officially file a complaint. These incidents are very important to the City of Santee. Bottom line is: Don't gripe...REPORT!
adam paul February 28, 2013 at 07:42 PM
Mayor Voepel, thank you for chiming in on this. Thank you for answering and reinforcing what myself and others have been saying.
Mary February 28, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Mayor Voepel - I agree progress has been made. It is not as overt as it once was, but, by telling people to report incidents you are setting them up for retribution. So why would they? The fact that we have to stay on top of "equal opportunity" with officially dedicated staff makes me know that it is something that needs constant attention.
Mary February 28, 2013 at 08:16 PM
Adam - To answer your question I have been a homeowner here in Santee for over 15 years and I personally had swastikas keyed onto the trunk of my car, because my child dared to talk to African Americans in public, so don't go there.
adam paul February 28, 2013 at 08:25 PM
Mary - I will go there and have. Did you make a police report on the incident to your car? Also Mayor Voepel is right if nothing gets reported than nothing gets done and as far as fear of retribution well posting on sites like this doesn't help with anything. Its like a gang issue sure you are scarred but there comes a time when you decide you know what I am tired of this and you do something about it by reporting everything and taking the streets back. We had a drug dealer in my complex a long time ago and there were some that were scarred of retribution but you know what it took my dad, mom and few other neighbors to report all activity and once they did an investigation was conducted and the problem was solved. By saying what you say about setting up for retribution than that shows that you aren't part of the solution because you are afraid of what might occur and yes I know its a reality but if nothing is reported than the problem lingers.
Mary February 28, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Adam - Yes I did report it, and the perpetrator was arrested. His family retaliated by beating up my child, which I reported, and they spent time in juvenile hall for intimidating a witness. Any other question? You all have a good day in your bubble.
adam paul February 28, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Mary - it is you who are in a bubble. I am glad that you reported it and that something was done and I am sorry that your son was beaten up but am glad that again something was done to the people who beat your son up. I stick to the rest of the statement because if you fear retribution than nothing will be solved. Also Mayor Voepel has made it clear as well and he and the rest of the sheriffs etc have done an excellent job to make this town safe and that is backed up by the crime stats for the state of California.
Pat March 01, 2013 at 09:39 AM
I grew up in Santee, and went to school there from elementary school through high-school. I personally never witnessed any racism. In fact, both our prom king and our student body president were black. But here's my guess: blacks have been victims of racism in Santee, much more than any other minority. In other words, the racism that does exists (even if it's small), has been more pronounced towards blacks, than hispanics, pacific islanders, etc.
Phil March 01, 2013 at 06:28 PM
I am coaching my son's team at West Hills Little League. This Wednesday, I noticed graffitti on the fence of a house right by the batting cages. It said "White Power". This is just the most recent sighting for me. It's definitely here.
PwmCwzy March 01, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Sounds to me like another issue the Mayor of Santee refuses to acknowledge. The homeless in Santee don’t have social help because Mayor Voepel doesn’t think we have enough homeless to worry about. The people of Santee who don’t have sidewalks shouldn’t worry, because Mayor Voepel says it is a low priority. So not to worry about racist incidents, they also appear to be low on the totem pole of things to worry about also. Unless that is, if you are an African American living in Santee, or a homeless person living in Santee, or a homeowner who doesn’t have sidewalks, you might disagree.
Kevin Hippensteel March 01, 2013 at 10:52 PM
I like Santee because most of the people seem to have the same values. Not perfect but they are mostly hard working and care about the families and the town itself. I lived in El Cajon about 30 years ago. I won't live there now because of all the low lives and scum bags. I don't care what color they are. If they are white trash or others that are just lazy , I would never move back. Just like William Shatner said "El Cajon is the anus of San Diego". I'll do what ever I can to keep Santee from turning into that. That's not racist it's caring about your town.
Pat March 02, 2013 at 01:39 AM
I fail to see how Mayor Voepel is failing to acknowledge racism in Santee. I just re-read his post and he stated: "Our Deputy Sheriff's are very sensitive to these issues and are dedicated to protecting everyone including all types of minorities. Our School Resource Officers, the Gang unit and every level of Santee safety/staff are didicated to equal opportunity." As far as the panhandlers in Santee, I don't want my tax dollars wasted on them. Rather, the citizens of Santee need to take a two-pronged approach to them: 1) do not give them money, and 2) call the Sheriff's Dept. them if they're breaking the law (i.e. impeding traffic by panhandling at intersections, aggressive personal pan-handling, loitering, etc.). If they're bugging you when go into a store (say Wal-Mart) report them to the staff, and they'll remove them from the premises. If we make Santee undesirable to them, they'll go elsewhere.
PwmCwzy March 02, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Pat - Who gets to decide if racial exclusion and/or discrimination is over? Those being discriminated against or Mayor Voepel? By saying, to Mary and Adam Paul’s discussion that “Santee/Lakeside HAS ALWAYS BEEN BRANDED WITH AN UNFAIR PERCEPTION OF RACEISM” certainly indicates to me that our mayor believes racism doesn’t exist or he has done enough and stopped it. For the mayor to say we have the lowest rates of hate crimes really depends on how things are classified. I would ask if graffiti depicting “white power” or other discriminatory language is classified as a hate crime? I wonder if issues at schools are categorized as a HATE CRIME or the new politically correct term of BULLYING. By using the Santee Sheriff’s Dept with saying it is “SENSITIVE”, (yet in and of itself is not represented by the national percentage of the African American population parity numbers here in Santee), our mayor seems to be attempting to “white wash” the issue. Staff members being dedicated to Equal Opportunity does not stop racial hate crimes.
Pat March 02, 2013 at 09:20 PM
@PwmCwzy- I think a lot of words are being put in the mayor's mouth, that he hasn't said. He never said that racial exclusion or discrimination is over. The statement 'has always been branded with an unfair perception of racism' is not necessarily an absolute statement. For example, I can (and do) agree with that particular statement but I also believe that there has been a certain degree of racism/discrimination in the city. The services he offered are pretty much what any mayor would do. I don't really think there's that much more any other city's mayor could offer. Mayor Voepel may often say cringing things or stick his foot in his mouth, but I also think he is unfairly attacked for a lot. Keep in mind that Santee is not only the best-run city in East County, but is one of the best-runned in San Diego County, so he can't be all that bad. I'm not sure what else he could do.
Pat March 02, 2013 at 09:29 PM
@PwmCwzy as far as the statement 'by using the Santee Sheriff’s Dept with saying it is “SENSITIVE”, (yet in and of itself is not represented by the national percentage of the African American population parity numbers here in Santee)', the sheriff's department is not controlled or run by the city, but by the county of San Diego. So Santee would have no control of the numbers of blacks represented. If there are a low amount of blacks represented, that's not the fault of the sheriffs. I went through part of the application process for the county sheriff department. I remember there must've been over a hundred applicants there. Most of them were white with some hispanic and asian, but very few blacks. The opportunity is there, but they just weren't applying for it.
PwmCwzy March 02, 2013 at 10:36 PM
Pat - Let’s see, what could Mayor Voepel do? Designate one day a year for each ethnic community to have a diversity day at one of the city parks. I’m sure many citizens would love to share their home cooked food and customs, to show that we truly are a city that appreciates our cultural diversity. Maybe start a committee made up of volunteers to brainstorm ideas and have a centrally located suggestion box that the public could submit their ideas. There are many activities that a proactive mayor, who is truly interested, could support, rather than say we should file official complaints.
Pat March 02, 2013 at 10:55 PM
@PwmCwzy- "Designate one day a year for each ethnic community to have a diversity day at one of the city parks. I’m sure many citizens would love to share their home cooked food and customs, to show that we truly are a city that appreciates our cultural diversity." So that 'diversity day' would include invitations to irish-americans, italian-americans, and other euro-americans too, right? Santee is a conservative, Republican strong-hold. This isn't North Park and I think most people here could care less about PC ideas as 'diversity day.' Nor do we feel any particular need to 'show we appreciate our cultural diversity.' It is possible to not discriminate against others, while also not having to embrace the latest liberal idea on 'celebrating diversity.' It's not that complex: just treat others as you yourself would like to be treated. I strive to live by that code, without having to sign up for the latest 'diversity-training' course. I suspect that mayor's approach is representative of the majority of Santee residents.
PwmCwzy March 03, 2013 at 12:53 AM
Pat - Yes the invitation would be to all Santee residents. There could even be an Irish and Italian day. I am sorry you don’t feel a need to celebrate our complexity. I believe the more we know about others’ heritage, the more homogeneous we are, which is what America is all about. You are probably right. Santee is a conservative, Republican (AND WHITE) stong-hold that probably doesn’t need any diversity-training and Mayor Voepel represents y’all.
PwmCwzy March 09, 2013 at 03:55 AM
On a City of Santee sign between Home Depot and Cuyumaca one of the blank areas is written "Skinhead". My 8 year old grandchild asked me what it meant. I couldn't believe it so I made a U-turn at Mission Gorge and another at the Home Depot entrance and saw it for myself. But, not to worry, we don't have any racism here in Santee. It must be someone trying to make believe we have a problem.
Kevin Hippensteel April 18, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Is having a China town, Korea town, a Linda vista, Mira Mesa or East LA Racist?

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