In 1996, California voters approved a citizen-sponsored initiative—Proposition 209—that added the following words to the California Constitution: “The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin, in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting.”
Since I have no school-age children or grandchildren, I’ve watched the debate over school openings from afar. But every American has a stake in the discussion over how, when and if to bring kids back to school. Pandemic-driven closures last spring affected 62 million pre-primary, primary and secondary school students, along with parents and teachers.
Sadly, the debate is taking place at a divisive time—the 2020 presidential election, as our country experiences unprecedented civil and economic unrest and a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
In the past five months, two life-changing events rocked the world. COVID-19 brought serious health challenges and is still taking far too many lives. The virus exposed our vulnerabilities, from hospital capacities to assisted-living safety protocols. Also exposed were the slender margins of our economic system.
Then came the horrendous murder of George Floyd and the mobilization of the Black Lives Matter movement. Millions peacefully protested against racial injustice in our city, state and nation.
Readers know my passion for local small businesses. Sacramento merchants make immense contributions to our neighborhoods. Our sense of community, lifestyles and health depend on their “open for business” signs.
The past four months have frayed the protective fibers of our community. Businesses and schools were shut. Healthy lifestyles disrupted as gyms and fitness centers closed. Self-isolation. Families and friends kept apart.
Twenty-five years ago, my husband and I went into the local publishing business for two reasons. First, we saw the need to connect neighbors to one another, which helps folks build stronger ties to their communities.
Second, we love and value small businesses. We want to help local merchants reach their neighbors and grow their businesses.