The Highland City Club Has a racism problem


Guest opinion

The Highland City Club is a social center in downtown Boulder for the type of people who can afford their $500 a month base membership fee. Despite the Highland City Club’s “About Us” page’s claim that the club “transcends race” (as if such a thing were possible in a city where Black people are pulled over by the police twice as often as White people,) the club’s “Featured Member” section is comprised of over a hundred White faces with about 6 exceptions. The Highland City Club’s glaring Whiteness exists as a function of a number of systemic factors, but what I would like to shed light on here are racist statements made by the club’s owner Sina Simantob, that surely play a role.

In a 2019 piece published to the Highland City Club’s website titled “Racism,” Sina lists a number of racial and ethic groups he discriminates against, arguing that it is a “natural tendency” to see racial groups “in terms of stereotypes.” Sina writes:

Perhaps it simply means humans have a natural tendency to initially see each other in terms of stereotypes. As a young foreign engineering student, I remember dropping an advanced calculus class because more than half the students were oriental, and though they weren’t any smarter, they worked 3X as hard, so I had no chance to get a good grade. I stopped doing business with Hasidic Jews in NY because time after time they proved to be better businessmen than me. And I stopped playing sports if there were more black players on the other team. So am I a smart survivalist, or a bigoted racist?

The answer to Sina’s rhetorical question is very obviously the latter. Only a bigoted racist would intentionally avoid: playing football with Black people; taking math classes with Asian people; or doing business with Jews. Sina’s position is rooted in “Race Realism,” a type of (pseudo)race science propagated by SPLC-designated White nationalist Charles Murray, who argues that race is a biological reality, and that racial groups have inherent strengths and weaknesses. Murray’s “Race Realism” is a long debunked and scientifically unfounded idea, but still holds prominence to most of the contemporary white nationalist movement.

Sina doubles down on his bigotry in a March 2021 piece titled “Confronting The ‘R’ Wordwhere he posits that Black people’s “failure of imagination” is an “impediment to assimilation [ . . . ] which locks us into a historical straitjacket.” Sina’s reasoning for deflecting responsibility for hundreds of years of racial oppression? Two Black people once stole his wallet in Oakland.

In a July 2021 piece titled “Modern Day Philosophers,” Sinacriticizes “cancel culture” and “critical race theory,” the latter being a school of legal studies which has been weaponized by Christopher Rufo of the Manhattan Institute in order to mobilize right-wingers against the teaching of accurate American history in schools. Rufo has even said as much, writing on Twitter that:

“We have successfully frozen their brand—’critical race theory’—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category.

The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think ‘critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

Sina fueling the ridiculous discourse around Critical Race Theory should come as no surprise given his other public statements. What is concerning, however, is how much support Sina’s club gets from public officials at the city and state level. The Highland City Club has hosted events featuring Chief of Police Maris Harold, City Council member Bob Yates, Representative Joe Neguse, Boulder Assistant City Manager Yvette Bowden, Boulder Board of Education President Tina Marquis, and more.

Given the amount of lip service our public officials gave about justice and equality since the George Floyd uprisings, the least they could do is not go to events hosted by a man who boasts about his bigotry on the company website.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.


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