Nearly two months ago, the coastal enclave of Manhattan Beach, California was thrust into the spotlight when two young black surfers were called profoundly disturbing epithets in the water. The incident went viral and Brick and Gage, as they are called, used the moment for good, becoming activists in the wake of, but still, it highlighted the deep vein of racism that runs through the town.
Most recently, Manhattan Beach has been most known as the backdrop of World Surf League CEO Erik Logan’s many SUP adventures, regularly geotagging it on Instagram, but before that it was virulently, meanly, anti-black. A black family’s oceanfront resort, Bruce’s Beach, was once seized by the city using crafty eminent domain laws and black beachgoers were regularly run out of town.
But how to atone?
A task force was formed earlier in the year, according to a thorough new Los Angeles Times piece on the troubles, and an apology drafted but the town’s residents have pushed back on the notion they should be held accountable for what previous generations did. Manhattan Beach mayor Suzanne Hadley going so far as declaring, “We do not want to ignore the past, but we do not want it embroidered in a scarlet R upon our chest.”
The callous response, and general lack of action, has frustrated some at the county level. Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn said, “I’m going to do whatever I can to right this wrong. There’s no doubt that this was such an injustice (Bruce’s Beach seizure) that was inflicted – not just on Charles and Willa Bruce, but generations of their descendants who almost certainly would be millionaires had they been allowed to keep that beachfront property.”
The property now holds a county lifeguard center and park and the county is trying to figure out how to right the wrong and compensate the remaining members of the Bruce family by either transferring the land back, paying fair-market rent or some other monetary payment.
Still, Manhattan Beach leaders are refusing to apologize with Mayor Hadley recently telling a virtual meeting of locals, “I don’t want an apology and I don’t think you do either.”
A two-page advertisement in the local newspaper paid for by “concerned residents of MB” called on their neighbors to “unite against FALSE accusations of racism.”
How will the stalemate end? Difficult to speculate but if I had to, I’d guess much bureaucratic foot dragging and mealy-mouthed emptiness.
A specialty of the area.