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Wake Up and Smell the Inequality

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In this day and age, it’s difficult not to turn on our local news channel, open up our favorite social media app or strike a conversation with a loved one and not have the current climate of the inequality brought up. It may be easy for some to turn a blind eye, hope this will all “Die down soon”, and shut off our attention on what the voices of the unheard are trying to tell us simply because they do not personally affect us.

For most people, this is a privilege and luxury that they cannot afford. There comes a time, now more importantly than ever, where we cannot afford to ignore issues of inequality any longer. Now, my friends, is a time to be an ally, be empathetic, and stand up for those who feel they don’t have a voice.

After recent news, The Black Lives Matter Movement (BLM) and Protests against police brutality have caught the attention of everyone, everywhere. The repetitive injustice in our country has become a global cry for equality for our Black brothers and sisters. George Floyd’s tragic murder has quickly become a stepping stone into the direction of a historical movement, right before our very eyes. There is an ongoing problem in our country of unequal justice for our Black brothers and sisters, other POC (People of color), and those within the LGBTQIA community, and it is up to us to put a permanent halt to it all. This monumental movement occurring during a global pandemic and Pride Month has opened the eyes and hearts of all of us, as well as a lot of frustration, fear, anger, and confusion.

 I have no doubt of the many uncomfortable conversations occurring at kitchen tables lately, or the frustration following a heated argument on social media over something someone just doesn’t fully understand. There are a plethora of emotions flowing through our community right now over where we should stand, where we shouldn’t, and whose opinions are right in the topic of equality. It can be disheartening, for example, when someone of a younger generation tries to explain to someone of an older one the importance of Pride Parades and BLM protests, only to be shot down with, “You’re too young to understand.” or “Younger generations are so easily offended by the world. Just deal with it we had to.” For years it seems like when something terrible happens around us we just “deal with it”, this constant repetition of history doesn’t bring change and growth for the future. Now is the time for that great change and it all begins in hearts, in our homes, and in our community. We’ve gotten so used to looking away from the things that make us uncomfortable without looking at WHY we are uncomfortable in the first place. So, I ask you this, friends: What do our hearts benefit when we look away?

Last year, Redlands received an outpouring of support for hosting its first ever Pride Festival, giving my fellow members of the LGBTQIA community a reminder of what a loving ally they have. Small steps like that open so many windows of opportunity for those who are still enclosed in boxes of their own. Let’s not forget, however, Pride wasn’t always rainbows, glitter, and drag queens reading us to filth. The first Pride festival and Parade were later a result of the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969.  The blood, sweat, and tears were the cost of those who believed in a better future for the LGBTQIA community. These riots and protests were bravely started by Black people and POC within the LGBTQIA community who dreamt of equality and fought to make it happen. Fighting for equality is a battle, and no battle will be smooth seas and clear skies. Too often we hear about POC within the transgender community being murdered for simply living their truth. These tragic occurrences are tied with the pill that a lot of us are having trouble swallowing: That until the welcome and social acceptance are extended to every single person in this country, then it is not truly an inclusive place. When I tell people that I, a queer woman, live in Redlands, half the time that “yikes” face is usually followed. Our city can sometimes have the reputation of being, for the most part, conservative and very stiff in their ways and beliefs. Those in our city standing up and supporting The BLM Movement and supporting Pride Month play such a huge roll in breaking the generational stigma that things will never change. Businesses like the Visitor Center downtown are an amazing example of an ally. Don’t take my word for it though, visit Deborah and take in the sight of our beautiful Pride flag she has displayed to show that they are a safe haven for the LGBTQIA community. A key part of Pride Festivals and Parades is to be inclusive and welcoming to all and something as simple as hosting these events in our own community are just stepping stones into the right direction of creating a more loving, welcoming, and empathetic city.

Celebrating different causes isn’t born with the intention to single out another group, but to simply say, “I see you, too, and I’m taking this moment to stand with you.” Very similar to when someone says, “All lives matter!” in response to the current protests taking place in our city. Here is another way to understand why that response is a form of gaslighting: If I were to say “Save the rainforest.” You wouldn’t respond with, “ACTUALLY save ALL forests!” right? Just because we need to save the rainforest doesn’t mean other forests have no value. It’s just that this one needs our focus right now because its current situation has gotten out of control. Let this time be a learning experience for you and those having a harder time understanding rather than an insult to their current knowledge. Along with all of this brings we come together to realize that at the end of the day, each one of us is someone’s child, someone’s friend, that just wants to be seen, heard, and most importantly, loved.

So, how can learn how to love during a time of fear, confusion, and heartache? Ask questions. Answer questions those have that are still unaware of issues bigger than both you and I. If someone in your circle is saying something you think is hurtful to a certain group, speak up and defend them, even if they are not around. Now is the time to come together as a community and stand with those whose voices have been made invalid for far too long. Their fight is our fight, because together we are better than racism, homophobia, transphobia, and bigotry. I dream about a world where Black parents don’t have to teach their children a phrase that could potentially save them from becoming another name like Tamir Rice, or Breonna Taylor. Where my fiancée and I can hold hands and sit in a public setting without anticipating the looks or actions that may follow. Where a transgender woman can walk alone from point A and make it safely to point B without wondering if that breath she’s taking will be the last. Stand with those around you who are fighting, my friends, and stand firm because the only thing we have to lose is an opportunity to do what’s right.

Love and Light to you always,

Graci Rodriguez

Need to know terms:

BLM: Black Lives Matter

“Read to filth”: When a drag queen thoroughly insults another in a comedic sense or skit.

POC: People of color.

LGBTQIA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual or Allied.

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