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By E.A. Barrera 

May 5, 2020 (Santee) -- I grew up in San Diego's East County. I lived and went to school in Lakeside. Over the years I lived in Santee, the SDSU College area, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Hillcrest, La Mesa, Lemon Grove, El Cajon and Julian. I currently own a home in Lakeside.

My first apartment in the early 1980s as a young guy living with my then-girlfriend was in Santee. I worked at a local small grocery-market that delivered kegs of beer to customers, and the owners were a decent elderly couple who had moved from Los Angeles because they loved the pace and the nature of small town life. 


The overwhelming majority of people of East County are decent, good people who would never resort to racial hatreds and bigotries. They hate that garbage as much as anyone else.


But I have seen and heard racist behavior all my life. All throughout San Diego. 


  • From the time I was 1 years old and neighbors would be grousing about how much they hated "that that nigger Henry Aaron was gonna break Babe Ruth's record" to parents protesting by keeping their kids home during “Black heritage week” at Rios Elementary school.
  • During my high school years at El Capitan, a black navy family - recently transferred to San Diego - attempted to move into an apartment near Lindo Lake in Lakeside. Groups of white people gathered outside as they moved in - and the next morning graffiti was sprayed on the building saying “no niggers” and a swastika drawn. 
  • Over the years, I had to endure dumb questions or statements about my “being a Mexican” though my father was from Colombia. “Mexican” being used as if it was a general slur for anyone who had a name like mine, much less whose skin might not be Lilly white. Supposed friends who thought the funniest thing in the world was my father’s accent and would make it the butt of dumb jokes they thought harmless - or could care less if they were harmless.
  • Halloween parties where some dressed in Ku Klux Klan hoods with little black dolls that had nooses tied around their necks hanging from their costumes. SDSU fraternity/sorority parties where the word “nigger” was freely used and black face was a common costume.
  • Young men shaking hands and then locking pinkies and raising their thumbs in a “W” shape as they either whispered or outright chanted “white pride.” 
  • In 1999, the Grossmont Union High School district attempted to pass a hate crimes ordinance due to outbreaks of racism and hate. The cries of protest from people who should have known better rang out, claiming all insults were the same. Trustee Ted Crooks received death threats for proposing the rules - death threats because he and others dared to suggest that words like “nigger, faggot, beaner, slope” and their like were worse than the normal unpleasant names people get called. “All insults hurt” one local politician said at the time, implying that being made fun of as a kid for wearing glasses or being too skinny or fat was somehow the same thing as being called a “nigger.”
  • One afternoon during the 2008 election, I was buying a new set of tires for my truck in a Lakeside store and was forced to hear two guys complaining about “that nigger” running for president.


In recent years it has gotten worse. Donald Trump's election has emboldened language and "jokes" that most of my life were reserved for small gatherings of people when they thought nobody was listening. 


So when I see that some clown decides to wear a Ku Klux Klan hood in a Santee Vons - no doubt thinking it would be a real funny thing to do and most people would think him clever for such a joke - I am not shocked. 


Saddened. Angry. 


Frustrated that this sort of garbage still exists. 


Furious that this knucklehead still lives in a world where he’s told he has a great sense of humor and winked at by others for the supposed “statement” he’s making about standing up against big government and political correctness.  Encouraged by a president of the United States who says when he sees Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis marching to protect symbols of the Confederacy in Charlottesville that “there were good people on both sides” of the debate. 


It is a good thing that so many have publicly condemned this man in the Vons in Santee for wearing a KKK hood in public. Maybe that is a sign things have improved a little. But ask yourself every time you hear racist language or see racist behavior when you are in small gatherings and nobody is watching - is this really who we are?


The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact

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