Racist note prompts Elk Grove town hall. Former candidate says site could deter minorities

After a racist note was found at a black-owned hair salon in Elk Grove, the City Council is hosting a town hall tonight to discuss race relations.

Scheduled for 6 p.m. at the indoor pavilion at Elk Grove Regional Park on Elk Grove-Florin Road, the meeting is also intended to discuss implicit bias and ideas on how to move forward as a “No Place for Hate” community, according to the agenda.

City spokeswoman Kristyn Nelson said four out of five of the council members are expected to attend. Mayor Steve Ly is traveling outside of the country this week, she said.

A note found in the door of the DreamGirls Fine Hair Imports in September used a racial slur in reference to African Americans and warned that a “hunt” is “coming soon.” The Elk Grove Police Department is continuing to investigate the incident as a potential hate crime, Officer Joaquin Farinha said Monday.

Sharie Thompson-Wilson, the owner of the salon, said it was the latest in a series of racist incidents targeting the business. After the recent incident was publicized, people sent flowers and notes of support, she said. The incident was widely condemned online.

A recent email to council members from former mayoral candidate Tracie Stafford sparked a lengthy online discussion after it was posted on the popular Elk Grove Laguna Forums page on Facebook. Stafford, an African American, questioned the location of Monday’s meeting at Elk Grove Regional Park, suggesting that “the location was chosen to deter people of color from attending” because the surrounding park setting at night could evoke images of lynching. She asked that the city move the location.

Stafford said in a statement that the concerns about the location were shared with her in confidence by residents she invited to attend the forum.

“I take my role as a community advocate very seriously and the email was intended to protect the town hall participants,” she said. “The email was then shared and politicized for reasons unknown to me.”

Councilmember Darren Suen said the comments came too late to move the event, but the city will be providing additional light, signage and security to ensure the safety of attendees. Councilmember Pat Hume said the criticism is a learning moment, since he hadn’t considered how the location could be perceived as a deterrent to people of color.

Both councilmen said they hope the event is the start of constructive dialogue on race relations in Elk Grove, one of the most diverse communities in the Sacramento region. According to the 2010 Census, 46 percent of residents are white, 26 percent are Asian American, 18 percent are Latino and 11 percent are African American.

Suen said most people in Elk Grove interact with people of different races, genders and sexual orientations on a daily basis.

“Whether it’s the national attention on these issues combined with isolated events, it never hurts to have us come together as a community and improve our dialogue,” he said.

It will be an official meeting, but no official action can be taken by the council until a future City Council agenda.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison