Nearly 200 people packed into an auditorium in Elk Grove Monday night for the city's first-ever town hall on race relations.
Throughout the roughly two-hour meeting – which was organized after a racist letter was sent to an African-American business owner in Old Elk Grove -- several people of all ages and ethnicities shared their experiences with race in the community.
“People don’t think it happens but it does a lot,” Jillian Knox, a student at Elk Grove High School, told the group. “I’ve been called a n----- many times on occasion by many different children. All seemingly of white skin, so there’s a common denominator there.”
Kimberly Vital, a mother who lives in an Elk Grove apartment building that was sprayed with “KKK”, spoke passionately about the challenge of explaining that to her children.
“Our 6-year-old doesn’t even know the difference between black and white because there is no difference,” Vital said, fighting through tears, “And it makes me sick that she came home to me and other kids saw KKK, and she was told it’s OK because she’s white and that somehow is different than her next door neighbor.”
Sharie Wilson, the owner of Dream Girls salon in Elk Grove, was part of the impetus for the community meeting.
In September, the African-American business owner was the victim of a hate crime after a racist letter that used discriminatory language and said the business was not welcome in the community was attached to the door of her salon.
“It wasn’t just happening to me,” Wilson told ABC10 Monday night. “A lot of people kept saying it’s fake news. Even some leaders didn’t believe it was happening, so I said let’s just get a town hall so you can hear more from others than just me…others going through the same thing.”
Wilson said she is the first African-American business owner in Old Town Elk Grove and that her business has been the target of several racially-charged attacks since she opened it in 2009.
"This is not the first incident. We've had feces thrown at my front door. We've had people call the salon telling us n----- get out," Wilson told ABC10 the week she received the letter. "It's a lot of things been happening over the years and I've been calling the officers, calling the police and nothing has happened."
The meeting Monday night was the first of many town halls Wilson and other members of the community plan to hold to address issues of racism in Elk Grove.
Other business owners, as well as the Elk Grove PD, attended the meeting.