Editorial: Oakland NAACP should cut ties with Scott

  • by BAR Editorial Board
  • Wednesday September 13, 2023
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Oakland NAACP member Seneca Scott. Photo: From Scott's Facebook page<br>
Oakland NAACP member Seneca Scott. Photo: From Scott's Facebook page

The Oakland branch of the NAACP should sever its relationship with Seneca Scott, a failed mayoral candidate whose forays into homophobia and transphobia have only escalated in recent weeks. The NAACP, a long-standing and respected civil rights organization, is a critically important voice, and the Oakland chapter has been active in debates over the public safety crisis in The Town.

But Scott, who's listed as an executive board member on the branch's website and helps lead its get-out-the-vote effort, is not the type of person the chapter should want in any leadership capacity. Other organizations, such as the Alameda County Democratic Party and the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club, have recently condemned Scott's homophobic social media posts, some of which were directed at Brandon Harami, a gay man who's Mayor Sheng Thao's director of community resilience and her de facto LGBTQ liaison. In his posts, Scott has used an old trope that equates gay men with pedophiles, which is vicious and totally uncalled for.

"Former Oakland mayor and District 3 Council candidate and current Oakland political operative Seneca Scott continues to spread false and dangerous narratives about LGBTQ+ individuals, even falsely accusing former CADEM Progressive Caucus Vice Chair and current mayoral staffer Brandon Harami of homophobic tropes," the county Democratic Party's September 6 resolution stated. "The Alameda County Democratic Party condemns the comments made by Seneca Scott to the fullest extent and asks that all Democrats in Alameda County refuse to organize with him or participate in his events."

Late last month, the East Bay Stonewall Democratic Club issued its statement condemning "the hateful anti-LGBTQ statements from former candidate Seneca Scott. This hate is inflammatory and has no place in political debate. We urge community leaders to stand against hate and avoid giving a platform to those who spread such messages."

But Scott's anti-LGBTQ comments aren't directed solely at Harami. On June 1, the start of Pride Month, he wrote on X (formerly Twitter), with photos of Pride flags, "Of course you want a bunch of flags for pedophiles. Groom a kid today?"

In June 2022, Scott was photographed at an Oakland First Friday event wearing an anti-trans sandwich board that read, "Dad, noun. A human male who protects kids from gender ideology." Scott was standing next to well-known transphobe Chris Elston. "He's an independent candidate who knows we shouldn't be blocking puberty in children," Elston wrote in the post that accompanied the photo. (Scott told us last year that he's not transphobic.)

During the mayor's race last year Scott also exhibited antisemitism when he issued a "Protest?" comment after another minor candidate sent out an antisemitic diatribe and was not invited to a forum hosted by the Jewish Community Relations Council, as we reported. While Scott denied he was antisemitic, a gay man who's executive director of JCRC said he felt Scott was attempting to instigate a protest for declining to include the candidate.

Scott is the founder of Neighbors Together Oakland, which last weekend held a public safety rally in East Oakland, near a church where the mayor, Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price, and other officials were holding a community safety forum. The dueling programs drew a crowd to East Oakland, a hotspot for crime in the city. Loren Taylor, a former city councilmember who narrowly lost to Thao in last year's mayoral race, was a featured speaker at the rally. And while a video posted by Oaklandside news editor Darwin BondGraham shows Taylor speaking about the importance of the city's diversity, he does not explicitly condemn Scott's blatant homophobia. Instead, Taylor blamed detractors for painting Neighbors Together Oakland as anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans. Um, no, Scott, the group's founder, did that all by himself. Taylor did say, "We're here because we love our neighbors ... the great diversity that makes our town incredible."

At the Stonewall Democratic club's Pride breakfast September 10, Thao spoke out against the hate speech, though she didn't mention Scott by name. "We need to say to these folks, 'get out of our town," Thao said.

It's no surprise that Scott isn't a fan of Thao, and he's posted plenty of comments ranting at her and calling her names. It's petty and uncalled for. There are plenty of legitimate concerns facing Oakland: property crimes are up, and there are still way too many homicides. Thao has been stymied by the dysfunctional police commission from moving ahead with hiring a new leader for the department.

Scott is doing a grave disservice to the city and its residents by espousing homophobia in an apparent effort to garner attention. It certainly isn't bringing neighbors together, as his group purports to do.

All of this is to say that Oakland civic and political leaders, like the NAACP branch and Taylor, need to stop working with Scott and forcefully condemn his hate speech. It's divisive and does not advance community conversations in any way, except to bring out the haters. LGBTQ people are under attack in conservative states across the country, especially trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The Bay Area, particularly cities such as Oakland with its long history of inclusiveness, needs to be a place where people thrive, not where they're subjected to false accusations because one man doesn't like their political or policy views.

We are aware that by writing this, we're giving Scott the attention he so craves. But we must call out bullying and hate speech when it hits close to home like this. Scott needs to grow up, and organizations that give him a platform need to stop and consider the negative effect his words are having on a city that's trying to solve some difficult problems. There can't be Neighbors Together Oakland if the leader is the one trying to divide people with homophobia.

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