Welcome City Resolution

I don’t profess to know all the political ramifications of supporting or not supporting the proposed welcome city resolution.

So I’m just going to speak from my heart. I feel better about this anyway, because if you ask me, how we treat other people is an issue of love and not politics.

And then you’ll see how and why I feel good about the resolution that was proposed at the May 16 city council meeting. And I give a huge kudos to Nathan Weller and Ann Parks for presenting it.

Read the proposed resolution

Outside my house, I have the same sign many folks have seen across Pullman:

Someone asked me the other day why I “jumped on that bandwagon” and got a sign. I didn’t jump on it. I was actually one of the first people in the city who had this sign. But I certainly don’t deride others from getting one, no matter how “flooded” they feel that market is. I celebrate it! Isn’t it a good thing folks are showing they care?

There are only three languages on the sign, but it’s meant to be a statement.

Some would say that Pullman is already a welcoming city, and that a sign like this is a redundancy.

And? So what! We build procedural redundancies all the time so that if something goes wrong, we have a backup. We can’t we outwardly show others exactly how we feel even if many already know? Yes, we can! And, if they don’t know, maybe they now will.

If we don’t grow up understanding what privilege is, that’s understandable. After all, common explanations of what this is has largely been made by academic folks. Many of my closest friends are higher education faculty members. Very smart folks. But a lot of times, I don’t understand a darned thing they’re saying, especially when they’re using a specific argot, and speaking in a manner that makes it seem like they’re reading a peer-reviewed journal article!

But more on privilege in a moment.

My views of our inter-connectedness and global community drastically changed when I lived in Argentina. If there was a continuum to show how I felt about things I wasn’t used to, it would be 1) Ignorance. 2) Awareness. 3) Experience. 4) Acceptance/Rejection. 5) Embracement.

Now, that’s pretty rudimentary, because at any point in our life, we could be at any area on that continuum, with any number of things. I know I sure was. Let me tell you about life back in the late 90s. My friends and I used to say everything was “gay” or “retarded.” We didn’t say this with any feeling of malice in our hearts. We certainly would never have actually made fun of or bullied any of our friends who were gay, or had intellectual or physical disabilities. Had I ever done that, my dad probably would have bullied me a little (he’s grown, too, because becoming physical is not what he is about, either). But we said these hurtful things nonetheless! While on one hand I’m mortified at the things we used to say, I also share this because it was part of my personal growth, and I think it’s important to help others understand that just because you say or do things one way, doesn’t mean you can’t change things that are sexist, racist, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc., etc.

So, that was life in the late 90s. But from Dec. 10, 1999 until Sept. 8, 2001, my eyes were opened quite a bit, ranging from “Why do they do things this way here? That’s goofy!” to an understanding that even if I didn’t do things the same way… even if I didn’t embrace that, I embraced their right to do it that way.

Much of this personal growth came because of conversations, and the subsequent self-reflection… truly personal interactions. I got to know people, not just talk to people. I got to be with them during good times and bad. I was blessed to celebrate with them and humbled to mourn with them (seriously, I shed many tears). I heard them and sympathized with them when they talked about their struggles. They shared things with me that were personal and most precious. Many are still my closest friends (Hugo! Rosalia! Tamara! Matias! La familia Alvarado!), and I would imagine they’d all say they saw a huge change in me.

This time was transformative, in so many ways, because it helped me identify with them in a way that transcended culture and language (though yes, I do speak fluent Spanish). There really was a world outside the one I knew. There were other ways of doing things. And if I didn’t do those things the same way, I could at least show respect and allow them the privilege of doing according to their own conscience. I decided that it wasn’t simply “my way or the highway.”

So, when I start to understand these things, I open myself up to hearing other folks talk about their experiences. The one I heard recently was the member of Trinity Lutheran sharing that someone had told to her to go back to Africa because of her skin color. Or a co-worker who has told me about her son being attacked and racial slurs being used.

But, “Pullman is already a welcoming city.”

Well, sure. Especially when only seen through the lens of our immediate circle of friends, or influence. Or even more so, our experience. Because, until something happens to us personally, we can’t begin to empathize with others. And that’s privilege.

I was one time driving in Centralia, where I grew up. I got pulled over. Cop said I had my music up too loud. Guilty as charged. He then asked about my immigration status. Wha?!?!?!w

I was listening to Maná, a phenomenal group from Mexico, one of my all-time favorites. My skin was also a lot darker than it was now because of all the time I had spent out in the sun. He decided I was “an illegal.”

See, for me, this only helped me empathize. But for me, it was still only an experience. It wasn’t life. I don’t live in fear every single day. While I feel that Pullman’s Police Department is 1,000 times better and less racist than the one from my home town (especially toward Latinos), nonetheless, it doesn’t change the fact that someone here might always be living in fear. And again, that’s the privilege I hold. It’s a term I’m admittedly still learning, and will forever be learning.

“But Pullman is already a welcoming city.”

That’s correct. For most folks.

OK, now let me school you: This resolution wasn’t written for most folks! This resolution wasn’t written for folks who have the same privilege as I have. It’s written for those who live here and need to know they have allies. It’s written for those who don’t live here but may be considering this as their home… and also want to know they’ll have allies.

“This resolution is merely a redundancy.”

Just like the sign in my yard, and the proposed welcome sign coming into Pullman, I’m compelled to ask: And? So what! Again, we build procedural redundancies all the time. We can’t we outwardly show others exactly how we feel even if many already know? Yes we can! And, if they don’t know, maybe they now will.

What does the resolution say that is making some folks so up tight? Again, here it is:

Read the proposed resolution

Is it the police section? OK… let’s have a civil conversation about it and any proposed rewording. Let’s talk about the politics of it. If you have reservations about this, let’s chat about it. Seems to me that even Nathan and Ann had a slight disagreement about some proposed wording. And that’s OK. Disagreement isn’t always bad.

Is there really anything else that people are truly worried about? I don’t see it! It’s a proclamation! It’s our ensign that this is who we are committed to be, even if we don’t feel that we always currently meet this. It is a symbol, just like my yard sign, that we think human rights, human decency, and love are vital. Can’t we just see it for what it is?

As Christian scripture says, in Matthew 25:40: “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” The “least” in this is not to be read as “inferior,” but is read to mean anybody who is marginalized. That’s just the gospel according to Chappy I guess.

Tough to argue this resolution. I’ve only heard three real reasons:

  1. It’s redundant.
    I’ve answered this a few times. Redundancy. So what!
  2. This was done for purely political reasons.
    Seems to me that this is more of a human decency issue rather than a political one. Sorry if you align with a political party that doesn’t feel love and decency are worth the effort.
  3. By proposing this at city council meeting, it meant classified staff had to stay an extra hour or so, plus the lights had to stay on an extra hour or so, costing the city money.
    No matter what, I feel like folks making this argument would take “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… ” and would add to the end: “… until 8 p.m. and then we gotta shut ‘er down.” Not even worth the time to justify a response!

Kudos, again, to Nathan and Ann for bringing this forward.

There are several other benefits to this, such as economic benefits. But again, for the same reason I’m not talking about this politically, I’m not talking about it economically. That’s not why I support this, though economics might very well be a benefit. I support this because it’s the right thing to do.

That’s how I feel. From my heart.

Para mi, no me importa de donde sos (si quisiera hablar como argentino :), o de donde venís. Sepas que conmigo tenés un amigo, o, por lo menos, alguien que te puede respetar… por lo que sos, no por lo que quiero que seas.