At first, I thought it was sort of silly to have a Winters City Council proclamation endorsing this community as safe for one and all, regardless of race, because racism isn’t really all that visible here.
Of course, I’m white, so if racism happens, it’s probably not me who’s experiencing it. (Which is the definition of “white privilege,” by the way… it’s not about what whites do experience, it’s about what we don’t experience. But that topic’s worthy of its own column. Another time.)
That said, with a 50-50 white/Hispanic split in Winters, there just doesn’t seem to be an undercurrent of racial tension here. We all get along pretty well. We order our burritos side by side at Chuy’s or El Pueblo, our children are classmates and teammates, and we have racially mixed festivals all year long, and that includes the Festival de la Comunidad, because, hey — carnitas speak everyone’s language, and they say “Yum!” (If you don’t know what carnitas are, you don’t live in Winters.)
I edit our police report every week, and mentions of hate crimes are essentially non-existent. I don’t see groups of people staring down other groups of people. I don’t hear people use racial slurs, however, if I did, I’d quickly gravitate away from whoever uttered them.
All in all, race doesn’t divide us in this community. However, piebald beavers and Burger Kings will get everyone’s fists up.
Even so, a respectable group of folks felt it was necessary to push a proclamation forward, with wording that includes: “Winters is a community where we stand against violence of all types including hate, theft, physical and sexual assault. Our community believes that people’s Constitutional rights are important.
“Winters is a community which works for the benefit of ALL persons regardless of socio-economic status, religion, ethnic or national background, sexual or gender identity, clothing choices or language spoken. Winters Is Winters because we are a place where people are welcome and accepted.”
(Funny side note — these are the strongest paragraphs in the proclamation, and irony of ironies, they were accidentally left out before the proclamation went before the city council on April 18, and the aforementioned respectable group made sure that was corrected.)
Although I didn’t really see the necessity for such a proclamation, because those declarations seem to be a given, what does it hurt. I mean, if a proclamation came forward that declared all puppies and kittens are adorable, that’s not necessary either, but sure, I’m all in. Proclaim away!
The respectable group, however, is much more impassioned about this proclamation than I, and isn’t that a great thing right there — that people cared so much about something that they peacefully made sure a public spotlight was shined upon it. I’m totally cool with that. Hats off.
Other people, not so cool with that. One scathing letter to the editor last week that ripped right into the spirit of that proclamation made me raise one eyebrow. But it was the comments on a couple of our Winters Express Facebook posts that made both eyebrows go way up — in shock and surprise.
One thread followed our announcement of an upcoming public meeting to discuss immigration concerns. Some folks objected loudly, revealing that they live in a binary world, where there’s only illegal entry and legal immigration, and never the twain shall meet. These folks aren’t interested in Winters children who may be crying themselves to sleep with worry because they fear their parents will be deported, and vice versa.
Stupid, crying children — deport them, too!
(Excuse me while I quickly gravitate away from you.)
However, the thread that really got my hackles up came after I posted a video during our recent Youth Day parade. I’d posted a couple videos, but this particular one was of the wonderful charros, with their colorful Mexican attire and those amazing, amazing dancing horses. Two of the charros leading the group (which has been in our parade since Jesus was in diapers) proudly held the American and Mexican flags, waving in the breeze, side by side — a statement of friendship and solidarity.
And wouldn’t you know it, some troll had an issue with that, commenting, “Is this a Youth Day parade? Or a demonstration of Mexican conquest in the United States? Winters CA is my favorite little town in American. When I visit downtown, I certainly don’t want to feel like I’m in Mexico.
“Also, it is not proper etiquette to fly a foreign flag at the same height as the American flag — disrespectful.”
And then, the wheels came off.
Several people who actually live in Winters gave this dude the verbal spanking he so richly deserved, including yours truly.
(Programming side note: I cleaned up his punctuation for print, because I’m OCD that way. Sadly, it gives him more of an air of literacy than he deserves.)
The common denominator between the comments on immigration and the Mexican flag in our parade and the letter last week is tone — disdain for “others.” But then, that tone has been set by our so-called president, so apparently it’s OK now to air your contempt for others and fly them like, well, a Mexican flag in the warm Winters breeze.
But it’s not OK. It really isn’t.
And so, not only have I decided that yes, it is important to state the obvious — that puppies and kittens are cute and that Winters is a community that accepts everyone — I’ve decided that the proclamation is necessary. It reminds us, as our values are crumbling around us nationwide, what we stand for. In Winters, we stand for community, and community means one and all.
To put an accent on that point, the Express now displays two of those colorful lawn signs — one on each side of our front door, that say in English, Spanish, Arabic and Japanese, “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”
And we are. We really are. Whatever flag you’re waving.
— Email Debra DeAngelo at firstname.lastname@example.org; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com