Sonoma County Superior Judge Visits Casa Grande for Black History Month


Photo by Valerie Alston

On Friday, February 25, Superior Judge Hon. D. Anthony Wheeldin visited campus to speak to students.

On Friday, February 25, Superior Judge Hon. D. Anthony Wheeldin visited campus to speak to students. Hosted by the Casa Grande Black Student Union, the presentation was held in the Big House Library. Wheeldin is a black commissioner on the Sonoma County Superior Court. He has served as a staff attorney for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as working as a lawyer in private practice, before his current position as commissioner. 

His presentation however did not focus on himself. Wheeldin’s aim was to inspire students to strive toward acceptance and innovation. Specifically, Wheeldin discussed the eurocentric aspects of American history and how it is taught to students in a way that focuses on white historical figures. This has encouraged the long-standing stigma in the United States that the white race is superior to others. 

“I love this country, I love this state, I love this city. But, there are some parts that aren’t pretty. There are parts of our past that have been left out of our history. And that’s why we have a black history [month], we need a black history to recapture those things that have been left out of American history,” said Wheeldin. 

Wheeldin stressed how discrediting and fabricated this ideal is, citing intelligent and prosperous black figures in American history. He listed familiar names, such as writer Maya Angelou, but also introduced the names of other, less familiar figures to highlight how these individuals created work that merited recognition greater than was given. Much of this disregard for these figures’ accomplishments is due to the white-focused lens that Americans use when studying history. Dr. Charles Drew, a black scientist, innovated the use of plasma in the medical field, yet his name is not often mentioned. 

The commissioner also read aloud from the Declaration of Independence, spotlighting the fact that the document originated from a desire for freedom and justice.  

“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator to certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. Great ideas, but they were not followed correctly. They did not apply to everyone. They did not apply to African-Americans…they didn’t even apply to women. 

Wheeldin continued, empowering the energetic words of the document, while also encouraging students to see how contradictory those words were in comparison to how the United States truly treats its people. 

“What we have instead is a northern european view of things [which] tells that [those with] white skin were superior to [all other races]. This became a cultural view. This became a part of our society. It was woven into everything that was a part of our country. And this became a part of our history. We didn’t mind being able to say we believe in the pursuit of happiness, we believe in individual rights, we believe in freedom, but on the other hand we have slaves,” said Wheeldin. 

Focusing on another historical situation in which the freedoms of people of color are abused, Wheeldin discussed the concentration camps that the United States ran, imprisoning Japanese-Americans solely because of their racial ties to the Japanese government. Yet, the United States did not mass-incarceration German Americans, a group also racially tied to Axis powers during World War Ⅱ. The only difference was that the white, European group was allowed to continue practicing their freedom, whereas the Japanese-Americans had their freedom stripped. 

“We’ve had a lot of ugliness in our history that people don’t want to talk about because it’s embarrassing, because it’s inconsistent with those principles,” said Wheeldin.

Addressing the students, Wheeldin encouraged those attending to embrace his words and learn from the historical mistakes of the United States. The access to information through the internet, an opportunity unique to current generations, poses an important challenge for students, who Wheeldin believes should take advantage of this opportunity to educate themselves on true histories in the United States. 

“You all are so well poised to create a new future… you are going to have to use your critical thinking skills to create a future where we merge our great ideas into true practice,” said Wheeldin.