Patty Radotic's daughter was student body vice president at Tokay High School when two Lodi men burned a 3-foot-high wooden cross in front of the school administration building on Jan. 20, 1998.
The incident took place shortly before Tokay was about to conduct a diversity celebration.
"How can people do this?" Radotic's daughter, Suzanne, asked.
Radotic, now a performing arts teacher at Millswood Middle School, hasn't forgotten Suzanne's statement.
It resulted in Radotic joining a non-profit group called the Breakthrough Project, which is determined to end racism, social oppression and bigotry.
"I can't be a mom and profess to be fair and not do something," said Radotic, who was recently named the organization's president.
So Radotic became an active participant in the Breakthrough Project, which conducts an annual Celebration of Unity on Martin Luther King Day and offers help to victims of racial incidents and other kinds of bigotry.
Radotic said she still sees some bigotry when her daughter visits Lodi with her African-Amercan husband, Corey Woolfolk.
"When they visit Lodi and we go to a restaurant, it is very uneasy," Radotic said. "You can notice that they don't approve of biracial couples. I think that's what it is. You can tell there's a judgment there."
Radotic served on the organization's education committee for several years with the late Art Raab and administers the annual student essay contest for Lodi's Martin Luther King celebration.
"Art's the one who really inspired me," she said. "I really miss him."
Raab, who died in 2009 at the age of 84, was a Lodi High School teacher, Democratic activist and active Breakthrough Project member.
This year, Radotic replaced Pastor David Hill of Grace Presbyterian Church as president. Hill still remains on the Breakthrough Project's board of directors.
Radotic said it hurts to hear people expressing prejudice against people from other cultures.
"I hate to read the letters to the editor because I need to calm down," she said.
Radotic says that prejudice is caused by fear of people with whom they are not familiar.
"I think people want to be loved and want to be accepted," she said. "There is fear because they are uncomfortable. I think they just want to be heard."
Radotic would like to see more mutual respect among people with differing viewpoints.
Despite her differences with some people's attitudes in Lodi, she's gotten used to it and enjoys the community now.
"I think Lodi has been a good experience for me," she said.
Contact reporter Ross Farrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.