• Chandlor Henderson

Open Letter: A Cry Against the Racism of ‘East County Today’


Dear Mr. Burkholder,

We are reaching out to you to address a serious trend we have noticed in the East County Today news outlet. Online, you describe the outlet as ‘an independently owned and operated entity that seeks to provide general news service of the issues that are perceived as being important in East Contra Costa County.’ You state that it is your mission to ‘provide news that is straight forward, accurate, and honest’. Mr. Burkholder you also state that through discussion and awareness that your outlet ‘makes the community stronger’. Although you make these claims, over the last several years we have seen headlines, pictures and articles that have accomplished just the opposite of your stated objectives.

The East County Today news outlet has repeatedly provided a platform for racists to spew their animosity for African Americans under the cover of anonymity. Your paper consistently provides biased articles with racist over and undertones. These articles do not unite East County but stir up ethnocentrism and white supremacist ideologies. It is this type of rhetoric that leads to the radicalization of residents who seek to demonize, discredit, and destroy those portrayed as ‘outsiders’. It is this kind of propaganda that fueled the Capitol Insurrection of 2021 as well as potential local acts of domestic terrorism.

The East County Today has endorsed virtual violence on anyone who does not espouse its social-political ideology. It also engages in racial tokenism by promoting ‘select’ African Americans who will not disturb or disrupt the established racial hierarchy. Mr. Burkholder, you state in your paper that ‘East Contra Costa County is home to over 300,000 residents’, of which 47,000 is African American. This means Blacks comprise roughly 16% of the county’s population yet are often portrayed as the causation for the majority of social problems. You attack allies of racial progress and select stories that generate bigotry among your most loyal readers. For example, in recent articles addressing the actions local Black elected officials you have given the platforms for readers to call them racial epithets.

Readers used descriptions such as: ‘criminals’, ‘hoochies’, ‘hoodrats’, ‘ratchet’, 'thugs', and 'ghetto’. As we all know these are common racial slurs used to dehumanize African Americans. You have criminalized our youth and ostracized our outspoken leaders. These are examples of online lynching's that are being normalized in virtual world of unaccountability. The youth of East County are commonly exposed to the comments attached in your articles. These comments reinforce the stereotypes of today and fortify the racial disparities of tomorrow.

On January 11, 2021 the East County Today implemented a new website comment policy in which you state that ‘based on all that is going on in the world, the time to become better has arrived. All comments on this website will be approved before they appear under articles’. Mr. Burkholder you even state: “In the past there has been little to no moderating (the comments). Sometimes there has been great dialogue and other times a complete disaster.

Mr. Burkholder although we applaud your effort to gain some form of online civility, the reality is the damage has already been done. This unregulated activity has gone on for years. Reputations have been ruined, jobs have been lost, discriminatory practices have ensued, and some African Americans have even fled the county as a result of this ‘unintended’ disaster. As you seek to create a ‘gentler and kinder’ paper for your readers, the victims of this racial vitriol will receive no form of reparations from years of unjust depictions. The truth is those comments were sparked by your headlines, articles and pictures. Your silence was violence and even now, East County racists continue to seek refuge in your paper.

Mr. Burkholder you have the constitutional right to critique and criticize opposition and to be the voice of East County extremism however, please stop portraying your paper as a legitimate unbiased news source. This is clearly not the case. East County deserves better than this. As federal officials are being held accountable for inciting physical violence, you must be held accountable for doing so structurally. Your words have been weaponized to make Black people permanent guests in East County.

Today we are asking for a public apology for your lack of editorial oversight. Also we are asking for an apology to the East County African American community for your insensitive images, articles and headlines that nourish racist remarks. We are also asking for a removal of ALL past overt and covert racist comments.

We hope that we can come to some form of resolution for the betterment of East County residents. We also hope to create a community in the words of Dr. King, that learns how to ‘disagree without being violently disagreeable’. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

East County Branch NAACP

East County Black Pastors Pact


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