Is cultural lynching still at work in utopic San Francisco? The City of San Francisco has waged a race war against Anna Kihagi, a successful African American real estate investor who has challenged the unjust practices in the properties under her management. So, what is her crime? Does she overcharge or discriminate? The answer is quite simple: her crime is being a successful black woman. In 1892, Ida B. Wells exposed the mob violence and lynching in the South that targeted successful black business owners. More than a century later, a successful black woman is still facing persecution in the predominantly white city of San Francisco.
Kihagi was born in Sub-Saharan Africa and raised by English nuns in a boarding school from the age of eight. She is a passionate believer in the American dream, working tirelessly and earning admission to the prestigious MBA program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, later even working on Wall Street. She left Wall Street to pursue a career in real estate and has amassed considerable success acquiring and developing properties.
Kihagi has made it her mission to improve neighborhoods throughout California and better the lives of inhabitants. One of her first renovations was a dilapidated motel in Richmond, California. A place that was once teeming with drug dealers, prostitution, and criminal activity has become respectable, low-income housing that is enjoyed and admired by tenants and neighbors alike. Kihagi remains fearless in challenging bureaucracy head-on to make improvements to neighborhoods while preserving the unique flavor of the area and its tenants.
Despite her proven betterment of residences in San Francisco and beyond, Kihagi has faced enormous adversity from the city, leading her to believe that San Francisco is one of the most racist cities in America and not the “sanctuary city” it claims to be. Many tenants leading the charge against Kihagi were subletting their units for thousands of dollars in profits, as much as $40,000 per year. White privilege has enabled these individuals to violate their leases while villainizing Kihagi in the process.
“Lynching is an important aspect of racial history and racial inequality in America, because it was visible, it was so public, it was so dramatic, and it was so violent.” – Bryan Stevenson
One would hope that Americans had outgrown the cruelty Stevenson describes, but volatile displays of racism are still prevalent, particularly in Kihagi’s case. Angry white tenants convinced even uninvolved and uninterested tenants to spread public hatred. One bragged, “My lady wants to punch [Kihagi] in the eye!” The City of San Francisco also participated in this defamation, with one city attorney asking organizing members for meeting notes. Tenants have keyed Kihagi’s car with profanities, etched racist messages onto her buildings, and even trespassed to tamper with work undertaken on the properties. The building inspectors dismissed more than 50% of complaints; some were filed with false names, automatically invalidating them. However, Judge Bradstreet ruled that the tenants never intended any harm, despite the various acts of violence proving the contrary.
The question remains: What is Kihagi’s crime? Enforcing contractual agreements with white tenants is no crime, yet tenants have lied, slandered, and waged a campaign of harassment the likes of which have not been seen since the days of the antebellum south. The only thing they have not done is dragged her into the street and tied the rope around her neck.