El Dorado County scraps its Human Rights Commission - proving it was really needed | Opinion

Nathaniel Levine/nlevine@sacbee.com

The El Dorado County Human Rights Commission was formed in 2018 to promote tolerance and respect among different races, ethnic groups, genders and religions.

On Tuesday, the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors voted to dissolve the commission by a 3 to 2 vote. This comes mere weeks after the same body voted to stop mandating implicit bias training for all those appointed to local boards and commissions. Instead, only people appointed to a handful of boards will have the training.

Some county board members obviously can’t be bothered to support systems and programs meant to address clear issues of bias and discrimination that continue to surface in El Dorado County, whether these elected officials care to address them or not.

On Tuesday, Supervisor Lori Parlin justified her desire to disband the county human rights commission because she feels it didn’t have “guidance or boundaries.” A few weeks ago, it was Parlin who wanted to do away with implicit bias training because she felt mandating it was “knee-jerk.”

Well, recent history demonstrates that El Dorado County has experienced real racial tension. Moreover, if the El Dorado County Human Rights Commission lacked guidance or boundaries, wasn’t it the job of elected supervisors to give them guidance and boundaries?

Sadly, residents in El Dorado County did not get a satisfactory answer to this question.


The three supervisors who voted to disband the commission — Parlin, George Turnboo and chair Wendy Thomas — made empty gestures at signing a county declaration that would reaffirm the board’s commitment to racial tolerance and equity. Of course, there is no accountability or oversight for that promise.

Back when it was formed, the goals of the Human Rights Commission were worthy of support. They included collecting data on human rights violations in the county, filing a rights reports to county board members and developing working relationships between community members, agencies and organizations.

Bigotry happens when one group of people are afraid of, misunderstand or look down upon another group of people. Forging ties and commonalities between people is a valuable weapon against bigotry.

Recent events in El Dorado County have demonstrated that more understanding among county residents is needed.

In 2020, local Proud Boys showed up at the Toys for Tots giveaway at the Placerville Christmas parade, and the county employee playing Santa Claus stopped to take a photo with them, joining in on making a white supremacist hand signal.

In 2022, at an Oak Ridge High School girls’ soccer championship game, students made animal noises whenever Latino and Black players from the visiting school kicked the ball. The California Interscholastic Federation Sac-Joaquin Section imposed several sanctions on the school after that.

One public speaker at Tuesday’s supervisor’s meeting said that Oak Ridge High students belonging to the school’s Amnesty International Club were subjected to disparaging remarks from local adults during a recent protest march through Placerville.

Supervisor Turnboo countered that the commission had “gotten way too political” and “way out of hand.”

To be fair, there were El Dorado residents who had their opposition to the commission’s work amplified by supervisors. There were also many supporters of the commission who spoke of how badly it was needed.

One county resident, who said she’d lived there for nearly three decades, said she has seen numerous incidents, “both covert and overt” of hate speech, racism and discrimination in El Dorado County.

“Just last year, when dining out, a patron singled out and ordered our African-American friend to be quiet and shut his mouth,” the woman told the board. “This past November, two days prior to the midterm elections, my neighbors and I woke up to find that we’d been flooded with anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying literature.”

Another speaker said she had to think twice about recommending a vacation in El Dorado County to a Black coworker.

“I had to think, ‘Is she going to be welcome here? Can she go down to Coloma for a hike and not experience any prejudice?’” she said. “That just shouldn’t have to happen for any of us.”

Sadly, the votes to disband the commission and discontinue implicit bias training proved how needed these measures are in El Dorado County. But by rejecting them, three supervisors seemed to say that outsiders are not welcome in their county.