In Rohnert Park, the city where I live, there used to be a thriving business center that was operated by the State Farm Insurance Company. Thousands of people moved to Rohnert Park to work at State Farm. The City of Rohnert Park even named the street where the 30-acre State Farm campus was located after the parent company. State Farm Drive is to this day one of the main thoroughfares in Rohnert Park.
But in November of 2010, the company announced that it would be closing its Rohnert Park facility in favor of office space in Bakersfield. And by July of the next year the property was indeed closed, cordoned off by fences and closed gates. The company’s 450 local employees were either laid off of told they could keep their jobs if they moved to Bakersfield. Many people chose to do just that.
Recently, it struck me that there might be a better name for this important piece of Rohnert Park than State Farm Drive. After all, it’s been nearly a decade since the company left and there were important things going on locally and in the world that might contribute to making Rohnert Park a better place. I went on the hyperlocal website, NextDoor – Rohnert Park, and suggested that the street be permanently renamed Black Lives Matter Avenue.
The response came quickly — and I was taken aback at how many people in Rohnert Park (plus some from nearby Cotati, and Penngrove) were actually againstthe idea. And they were willing to put their names on comments that bordered on racist as to why this street should not be renamed Black Lives Matter Avenue.
From people saying that BLM Ave. was wrong for Rohnert Park because they view Black Lives Matter was “a Marxist” organization [which it is not] to someone stating that there were too few Black people in Rohnert Park for this to be appropriate, the majority of the 86 comments that followed were largely against the renaming. Some people did have ideas that were more generous, such as Equal Rights Avenue or Ruth Bader Ginsburg Street, but no one that commented could embrace and run with the idea of Black Lives Matter Ave. A few people even stuck up for State Farm Insurance, which was a little bit strange.
And then there is the woman who sent me a private message that asserted I was acting on the behalf of the Communist Party in supporting Black Lives Matter. Really? I thought that the Red Scare of the 1950s ended with the demise of the Cold War!
Not trying to “out” anyone here, but some of the comments will be posted below with names blacked out (no pun intended) for privacy reasons.
As for NextDoor, from what I have seen it’s the kind of place where one would expect this kind of conservative discourse. It’s a password protected site where people have to prove they live there to be a part of it. From there it becomes a little bit like driving in your car — people think that no one can see the kinds of things they say out loud. People do everything from ask for advice on where to find a good dentist to reporting neighbors for loud parties — and encouraging each other to call the police.
For this reason, I chose a pseudonym to go onto the site — a blend of my first and middle name. I won’t be going back because in my opinion, with people like these making up its membership, NextDoor-Rohnert Park is strictly for losers.
I have to be buoyed by the thought that these online racist dog- whistlers (a dog whistle is a whistle with a pitch so high that only other dogs can hear it) can’t be the best of what is in Rohnert Park. My next door neighbors, for example, have street signs out in their front yard asserting that Black Lives Matter, and an assortment of other social issues. so whether you like their poster (above) or align more with the mystifying posts (below), you belong in Rohnert Park!