SVO: There Was ‘No Intent to Do Harm’ With Racist Campaign Ad

In announcing the conclusion of a probe into how a racist campaign ad wound up on its political action committee’s website, the Silicon Valley Organization offered few details.

Leaders of the regional chamber of commerce—who convened a Tuesday morning press conference outside City Hall to relay the findings of a third-party investigator—refused to name the person, or people, responsible for the image and wouldn’t say how they were held accountable, or if they were at all.

They never explained what executive board member Kevin Surace meant when he said the hit piece stemmed from a “lack of communication and breakdown of the process.”

They failed to contextualize the issue by framing the photo as a one-off instead as part of a years-long pattern of racially charged political hits. They didn’t even release the actual report, which it plans to make public a couple weeks from now.

When Surace said the probe found no evidence of “specific intent to post racist material or to stoke racial divisions,” it became clear they also missed an important point. That is, when it comes to deep, persistent societal issues such as racism and any other form of discrimination, intent matters far less than impact.

In highlighting the finding that the people who posted the offending ad didn’t mean to offend, the SVO came off as insincere to many who’ve been calling for a reckoning at the 133-year-old business group.

Glenn Perkins, the newly appointed SVO board president, said the advocacy organization will get back to basics: supporting small-to-medium-sized businesses. (Photo courtesy of Terry Downing)

A letter to SVO sent earlier this week by six community leaders, including Sacred Heart Community Services CEO Poncho Guevara and PACT’s Rev. Ray Montgomery, criticizes the organization for reacting “with defensiveness” to public backlash and “misleadingly calling it a symptom of ‘cancel culture.’”

Until the SVO commits to a “full and transparent examination of the pattern of racist decision-making” and the management, consultants, political donors and board members who enable it, the nonprofit leaders said they will decline invitations to join the organization’s diversity and inclusion task force.

The controversy ignited on Oct. 26, when Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County CEO Gregory Kepferle called out SVO’s political action committee for using a photo of Black men in what appears to be a cloud of smoke or tear gas to stoke fears about a council candidate’s call for less policing. Scores of nonprofits signed onto letters denouncing the SVO—not just for one ad, but for others that fear-mongered over housing density and crime and one that darkened a photo of Latina San Jose Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas.

The SVO promptly apologized. Its CEO, Matt Mahood—who said he had no knowledge of the ad until members pointed it out to him—was placed on leave, and then resigned. About 4 percent of SVO’s 1,200 member businesses and nonprofits cut ties with the organization. A consultant was hired to get to the bottom of things.

Entrepreneur Darlene Tenes said she volunteered to serve on a newly formed diversity and inclusion committee to help the SVO improve outreach to minority-run businesses. (Photo courtesy of Terry Downing)

Over the ensuing weeks, the SVO dismantled its PAC and launched a nationwide search for a new CEO. It named Glenn Perkins—the African American founder of Renaissance Executive Forums—as board chair, ordered sensitivity training for everyone on staff and began assembling a diversity committee.

Darlene Tenes, founder of events planning company Casa Q and one of volunteers on the SVO’s fledgling diversity and inclusion board, said the organization needs to make amends for “a long, long history” of racial insensitivity and exclusion of small-to-medium minority-owned businesses such as her own.

“There’s a reason why there is a Black chamber and a Hispanic chamber, and a rainbow chamber and a Vietnamese chamber and I could go on and on—because they have not felt welcomed in this chamber,” she said. “They [the SVO] have not met the needs that they’ve had. So they need to be more welcoming, they need to be more supportive.”

To that end, Surace, who’s been trying to woo back SVO members who quit because of the controversy, said the organization will double down on its core mission: to help businesses in Silicon Valley succeed.

The SVO, he said, will “step up efforts to do more with our community” and “over-perform to make up for what has happened and not just say, ‘the PAC is gone,’ but use this as a catalyst to engage the community.”

Jennifer Wadsworth is the news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Email tips to [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth. Or, click here to sign up for text updates about what she’s working on.

31 Comments

  1. > That is, when it comes to deep, persistent societal issues such as racism and any other form of discrimination, intent matters far less than impact.

    Pure, unadulterated postmodernist doctrine. Malicious misinterpretation. Attacking our institutions and civilization.

    https://twitter.com/wokal_distance/status/1283646877699731456?s=20

    “Deconstruction.

    You’ve likely seen this word in media and in academic literature. If you want to understand wokeness and how it operates, you MUST understand deconstruction. It is the key method the woke use to attack both our institutions and our civilization.

    . . .

    “Saying the author’s intent is irrelevant to a text’s meaning means anyone can misinterpret me and claim that I said something I never said. Why? Cause their interpretation of what I said is as good as mine. I can’t say”that’s not what I meant” because my intent doesn’t matter.

    Do all three and you can distort and destroy the meaning of nearly anything. Which is of course the point of deconstruction. If you can make the meaning of an idea unclear, you take away justification for acting on it you suck the power out of the idea, and that’s the point.”

    The recurring, relentless and hyperbolic attack on SVO (through SJI) is an attack on an institution that the postmodernists want to “deconstruct”.

    It’s “cancel culture”.

  2. > intent matters far less than impact

    As long as we are pronouncing judgements on the “intent” of institutions like SVO, why don’t we examine some judgements about the institutions founded on Postmodernism/Critical Theory:

    “From a blogger:

    To me, the disaster of current discourse based on critical theories is that their intent is the opposite of working to bring about real and practical change; their intent is to bring about a collapse of everything. That’s not hyperbole, They specifically deny that it’s possible to work within the current system at all, and their theories are designed to justify this horrific vision by asserting that absolutely everything is wrong, is tied to racism and white domination, is hopelessly entrenched, and is mostly invisible unless one plunges into endless theorizing in line with their scholarship. Elimination of all current societal structures and customs, and instituting something like communism, is where they begin their wish list.”

  3. Give us a break. A year ago, Santa Clara’s racist blogger was writing pearls about the Silicon Valley Organuzation. This year, Confederate Colonel Jude Barry designs a “brown hand” ad with the Santa Clara POA. Barry was also a fan of the SVO. They all work the Klan together.

  4. > This year, Confederate Colonel Jude Barry designs a “brown hand” ad with the Santa Clara POA.

    More postmodernist crap.

    Assigning intent.

    I think “IT WILL STAY WHITE”‘s intent was to be a racially divisive idiot.

  5. “Until the SVO commits to a “full and transparent examination of the pattern of racist decision-making” and the management, consultants, political donors and board members who enable it…” — Sacred Heart Community Services CEO Poncho Guevara and PACT’s Rev. Ray Montgomery

    For his refusal to recant his belief that the universe was infinite and the sun the center of the solar system, Giordano Bruno was stripped naked, tied to a post, and burned alive by the Catholic Church. Looks like SJI are cheering on Poncho and Reverend Ray in their service as foot soldiers of the next Inquisition.

  6. Mr. Surace’s statements that no evidence of “specific intent to post racist material or to stoke racial divisions” and that the scandal was the result of a “lack of communication and breakdown of the process” beg the question: “who is the person (or persons) responsible for designing, producing and deploying the race-laced political hit piece directed at District 6 Council candidate Jake Tonkel?” That is the immediate issue here.

    Could that person (persons) be one of the third-party consultants contracted by the Silicon Valley Organization (SVO) PAC—in particular, Storefront Political Media and/or Chariot Campaigns—as intimated by a San Jose Spotlight piece (https://sanjosespotlight.com/who-is-responsible-for-the-svos-racist-image-they-wont-say/)? Of course, consultants don’t just contrive their own projects. Who at the SVO PAC provided guidelines to, oversight for, and/or management of, the contractors? Also, who was responsible for setting guidelines and policy for the SVO PAC’s campaigns in support of Dev Davis and in opposition to Jake Tonkel? These are crucial questions that the SVO seems to be avoiding and the types of questions that may remain unanswered in order to protect the reputations and livelihood prospects of well-connected consultants and/or existing or former SVO officials.

    It is noteworthy that the SVO has very publicly and very recently appointed Mr. Perkins, an African-American, as board chair and brought on Ms. Tenes, an Hispanic/Latina, as a volunteer on the new SVO diversity and inclusion board. In doing so, SVO is not so subtly utilizing race/identity in an attempt to redeem itself for a history of weaponizing race/identity. It is SVO’s way of saying “we can’t be racists if our board chair is Black.”

    Does an allegedly racist organization appoint a Black board chair and assign him the task of speaking for the organization on this issue? What happened to Madison Nguyen, SVO executive vice president, and former Vice-Mayor of San oOse, who was designated the initial spokesperson when the Tonkel scandal erupted (https://sanjosespotlight.com/nonprofits-cut-ties-with-silicon-valley-organization-after-racist-attack-ad-is-released/)?

    By the same reasoning, does a racist White president (G.H.W Bush) and racist White senators appoint and confirm a Black man, Clarence Thomas, to the Supreme Court? Does a racist White president (G.W. Bush) appoint a Black man (Colin Powell) and a Black woman (Condaleeza Rice) each to serve as Secretary of State? Or does a presidential candidate with a history of racism (Joe Biden) choose a Black woman (Kamala Harris) to be his running mate?

    The answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes,” as long as said Black persons are “on board” with the objectives of the powers that be and can serve to “whitewash” (or “blackwash”) the racist histories and legacies of the powers that promote them.

  7. > The answer to all of these questions is a resounding “yes,” as long as said Black persons are “on board” with the objectives of the powers that be and can serve to “whitewash” (or “blackwash”) the racist histories and legacies of the powers that promote them.

    The postmodernist/Critical Theory trolls are mobilized and criticizing and deconstructing.

    It’s what they do.

    It’s what the “critical” in “Critical Theory” refers to.

    Political death by a thousand political cuts.

  8. This whole notion that intent doesn’t matter is the most selfish idea I’ve ever heard. Who ARE you Jennifer Wadsworth? Donald Trump in drag?
    Of course intent matters. It matters to people who don’t reflexively assume the worst about the people with whom they disagree. Caring about the intent of other’s utterances is a sign of grace, of respect, and of open mindedness.
    These are just a few virtues that seem to be in short supply among the “woke”.

  9. Child rape is the intent if is is the consequence, especially if it happens twice.

    okay.. I will assume that people who get kids raped are the best.

    Does that make you happy? Will you leave me alone now?

  10. If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

    If all you have is lots of spare time, limited computing capacity and talking points from Glenn Beck, everything looks like critical race theory.

    https://www.glennbeck.com/radio/deep-state-exposed-your-tax-dollars-are-funding-critical-race-theory-seminars-for-u-s-teachers; https://www.glennbeck.com/radio/teacher-speaks-out-five-outrageous-critical-race-theory-lessons-unions-want-to-teach-your-kids

  11. “as long as said Black persons are “on board” with the objectives of the powers that be and can serve to “whitewash” (or “blackwash”) the racist histories and legacies of the powers that promote them.” — Salem

    Can anything be more racist than reducing human beings to nothing more than the value of their skin color to others? Salem has apparently granted him/herself the right to dismiss the efforts, achievements, and qualifications of Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and, presumably, every other Black person who dares accept a position of which he/she does not approve.

    I forget, what do they call it when one group of people has absolute control over the labor of another group?

  12. When it comes to racism and discriminatory practices, intent does not matter. For example, some Indian agencies in this area have been suit for hiring mostly Indian and giving top positions to Indians too. They can argue they did not have intention to hurt anyone but to only be around familiar faces who share the same values and culture. Those arguing in favor of the intent factor are themselves acting on their unconscious biases. In the United States, ignorance of the law is not an excuse for the commission or violation of crimes and laws. The intent is important to categorize the degree of crimes, violations, and harm to others.

  13. All we know is that well known racist blogger in Santa Clara openly advocated for the SVO. All I know is that Jude Barry is well known for darkening faces of minority candidates and used the “brown hand” ad this year supporting candidates like ONeill who has openly campaigned against Latino candidates. No, using black men rioting is never racist.

  14. > When it comes to racism and discriminatory practices, intent does not matter.

    Pure postmodernism.

    As is radical feminism, too.

    “Intent vs impact” is a fake rule of postmodernism.

    Sometimes intent matters more than impact; sometimes it’s the other way around. Sometimes they’re equal.

    Postmodernism is necessarily a REJECTION of The Enlightenment.which solidified reason, science, human dignity, and free will as the foundation of civilization..

    Radical feminism rejects reason, science, human dignity, and free will.

  15. > All I know is that Jude Barry is well known for darkening faces of minority candidates and used the “brown hand” ad this year supporting candidates like ONeill who has openly campaigned against Latino candidates.

    “Black face” is not racist for Canadian Prime Ministers or for Democrat governors of Virginia.

    Therefore, black face is not racist.

  16. Racism is possibly the most over used term for excepting a double standard from one side of an argument. I’m offended by it and to be truly WOK it must be banned from any further conversation.

  17. You could have “white washed” a million different ways.

    If it were one child, then maybe you could make that argument.

    You lose credibility regarding intent after five.

  18. “That is, when it comes to deep, persistent societal issues such as racism and any other form of discrimination, intent matters far less than impact.”

    SJ Outside the Bubble is completely right: this is a comment straight out of the neo-Marxist, Gramscian left. There is no intent. There is no context. There is only whether or not action advances the revolution or supports the retrograde forces of counter-revolution. As determined, of course, by the Woke Commissars in government, journalism, academia, and non profit activism. Bring on the Red Guards and the NKVD!

  19. They have done it before.

    Rather than meriting yet more uber-outrage, realize it’s local amateurism again.

    Expect Silicon Valley Leadership Group to try to become the “one and only” now.

  20. I don’t understand how she can even rationalize getting a child raped.

    What about all the poisoning? She destroyed my organs in order to try to get me to concede.

    Now she wants to make herself out to be Mother Theresa.

  21. I simply don’t buy the excuses. Someone at the Executive level and probably also CEO had to sign off on spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for the attack ads. Since they signed off on the expenditures, they endorsed the ad and it’s message.

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