An Incomplete, Embarrassing Timeline of Anti-Black Moments in Orange County

1919: Two black men try to board a stagecoach bound for Los Angeles, only to have passengers lock the door so they couldn't enter. The stagecoach's driver said they could only sit in the back; the black men beat up the driver, breaking his arm and leaving him with a 3-inch cut.

1925: African-American businessmen from Los Angeles try to open a beach club in Huntington Beach. The city refused to connect utilities to the club, while the Huntington Beach and Newport Beach chambers of commerce openly opposed it. The club never opened; it mysteriously burned down in 1926.

1941: Fullerton resident Neff Cox passes away. For 16 years, he had operated a bootblack business in Brea, but he had to leave every afternoon because the city didn't allow blacks there after sundown. U.S. Census figures showed Brea had two black residents in 1950, one in 1960 and only 40 as recently as 1970.

1945: Citrus growers import 500 Jamaicans to La Habra to fill a labor shortage. Within a week of their arrival, newspapers proclaim they were causing a “racial problem.” A historian would later go on to write that “their numbers, appearance and manners were strange and frightening” to county residents. One laborer said there was “no place in the world as prejudiced as Orange County.”

1946: The Fullerton Planning Commission considers a proposal to build a housing tract for returning African-American World War II veterans. Residents sign a petition opposing the proposal because the tract “would depreciate the value of the surrounding property, and they did not want Negroes . . . in the neighborhood.”

1963: Tustin Congressman James Utt warns readers in a newsletter that the United Nations was training “a contingent of barefoot Africans” in Georgia to invade the United States.

1967: A Chapman College fraternity holds a slave auction. A sample headline from the Santa Ana Register that summer reads, “Negroes Threaten Bakeries.” And the Supreme Court rules in Reitman v. Mulkey that landlords could not discriminate against renters based on race. The case originated in Santa Ana, where a landlord wouldn't rent to an African-American military couple.

1969: More than 400 Mexican and black youths riot in Santa Ana after a black girl was kicked out of a theater. She had complained after a white teen yelled, “Why don't you black niggers keep quiet?” Teens threw bottles and bricks at police, set fires, and even took batons away from officers and beat them with the sticks.

1971: Richard Nixon on blacks: “I have the greatest affection for them, but I know they're not going to make it for 500 years. They aren't. You know it, too. The Mexicans are a different cup of tea. . . . They don't live like a bunch of dogs, which the Negroes do live like.” Also that year, the Orange County Board of Education deletes a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. from its purchase list, claiming he was a “conscious supporter of Communism.”

1987: Posters for a talent show at Cal State Fullerton depict a minstrel. A university official tells the Daily Titan it was “done innocently and not meant to offend anybody. We never knew any racial slurs associated” with blackface.

1988: Two UC Irvine fraternities, Kappa Sigma and Phi Delta Theta, and a sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, perform in blackface during a Greek Week skit. Mega-developer William Lyon holds a Gone With the Wind-themed fund-raiser at his Coto de Caza estate, at which a fellow developer wore blackface. And six cheerleaders and the student body president at El Modena High perform in blackface during a pep rally. Their excuse? They were Stevie Wonder and the Jackson Five.

1980s-1990s: Orange County jail guards form the “Psycho Crew” to harass and beat African-American inmates, leading to a federal civil-rights lawsuit and an injunction.

1989: The Cal State Fullerton chapters of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority and Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity apologize after an Aunt Jemima Greek Week skit gone wrong. The co-chairperson of Greek Week denies the event was racist because “there were no Afros” under the do-rags.

1990: Days after Nelson Mandela addresses Congress, Fullerton Congressman William Dannemeyer rails from the House of Representatives floor that the South African leader “is no Martin Luther King. He is more like H. Rap Brown or Willie Horton.” Also: Students stage a walkout at Savanna High School in Anaheim after the principal decides to phase out the school's use of the Confederate flag (Savanna's teams are the Rebels). One of the organizers tells The Orange County Register that the school's Black Student Union “gripe[s] about little things.”

1993: Two African-American students at Saddleback College running for homecoming king and queen abandon their efforts after receiving hate mail. After a town-hall meeting to address the issue, the president of the Black Student Union finds a racist note under his car's windshield wiper.

1994: OC Register letter to the editor: “Black Americans [should] be grateful for the fact that their ancestors were rescued from the horrors of African tribal warfare [and were] brought here by our Southern states, albeit as slaves.”

1995: Laguna Niguel City Councilman Eddie Rose writes a letter on city stationary to newspapers arguing that O.J. Simpson was acquitted because the jury wanted to “let a 'brother' go free” and was swayed by the “jive-talking” Johnnie Cochran. Earlier in the year, he voted against a resolution praising Martin Luther King Jr., arguing he had a “dubious background.”

1999: During a 1999 CIF boys' basketball play-off game at Savanna against the visiting Compton High Tarbabes, school officials cover up the Confederate flags in Savanna's gym. Savanna students and alumni complain. Also: The black caucus of the American Association of Higher Education, citing OC's anti-black past, announce it will boycott the group's 2000 convention because it's planned for Anaheim. “We looked at Anaheim and its historical nonacceptance of folks of color,” said the caucus' president, “and we don't want to feed that local economy.” Critics dismiss such concerns as “silly tactics.”

2008: Hip-hop superstar Questlove tells Rolling Stone that Orange County law-enforcement officers frisked him on the hood of his rental car and put him in a squad car because they claimed he matched the profile of someone who had been stealing Mini-Coopers from local dealerships. He was eventually released, feeling “livid and angry and helpless and about to lose my head.”

2009: Los Alamitos mayor Dean Grose forwards an email showing a watermelon patch growing outside the White House. He claims it's not racist.

2011: Orange County GOP Central Committee member Marilyn Davenport forwards an email depicting President Barack Obama as a baby chimpanzee. She claims it's not racist. Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach offers an MLK Day special: 50 percent off all black items! The shop claims it's not racist. A Corona del Mar restaurant is sued because an African-American customer received receipts that labeled him “McStinkynigger” and “McNigshit.” It claims it's not racist. And for MLK Day, a UC Irvine cafeteria serves fried chicken and waffles.

2012: An African-American couple—both in law enforcement—move out of Yorba Linda after the family suffers a year of racist abuse. Neighbors tell the media they don't know what the couple was talking about.

2013: An African-American family from San Diego sues Disneyland, claiming the park's White Rabbit character would hug all children except black ones. During CBS's coverage of the NCAA Sweet 16 tournament, former Tustin High basketball star Doug Gottlieb announces on air that he was there to bring the “white man's perspective” to an otherwise-all-black panel. Also: Videos emerge of Asian-American fraternity members at UCI wearing blackface. Hilarity ensues.


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