California city council decides it won't declare heritage months because they 'exclude people'
Temecula City Council in California has decided not to declare federally recognized heritage months, including Asian American and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Month.
In the city council's meeting on Tuesday, Councilmembers Jessica Alexander, James Stewart and Brenden Kalfus voted against declaring citywide proclamations that celebrate cultural diversity, arguing that the “inclusionary” decrees actually “exclude people,” reported The Press-Enterprise.
The declarations of commemorative months, including Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and Native American Heritage Month, will now be determined by Temecula’s diversity commission.
“When we bring one group up above the entire city, we basically exclude everyone else,” Stewart said, according to The Press-Enterprise. “I have a problem with that. I don’t have a problem with any of those proclamations that are inclusionary. I do have a problem at this level of government using this platform to promote another group over another.”
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“Why, again, are we elevating one (group) over the other?” Alexander, who led the vote, asked. “Maybe these types of cultural proclamations would be a wonderful place for the REDI Commission. That way we don’t get somebody saying, ‘Well you’re elevating this group, and not this group.’”
In the 3-2 vote, newly elected Councilmember Curtis Brown and Mayor Zak Schwank voted no, defending the declarations.
Brown said that federally recognized heritage months are about “awareness and education” and “the struggles that each one of these individuals or groups have had to get where they are.”
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“We are acknowledging subsets of our community,” Schwank said in agreement with Brown. “I don’t see it as an elevation above one person. It’s important that we not send a message to all the proclamation recipients that they are somehow less than.”
Various Temecula residents have spoken for and against the city council's decision.
“Declaring Gay Pride Month is a waste of time, energy and money, and it’s causing division — and entertainment, clearly,” Jessica Christopher said, according to The Press-Enterprise. “When does this end? Temecula has always been family-friendly. Let’s keep it that way. Pride Month already exists. Let those who want to celebrate it do so. If you’re going to have an LGBTQ+ Month, then I, too, want a heterosexual month.”
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Dr. Sandra Cox, a psychiatrist and a member of Defense of Democracy, believes that removing the declarations sends a statement of rejection toward the communities involved.
“It could certainly create an environment wherein people don’t feel they are included and welcomed in this community,” Cox said, according to The Press-Enterprise. “And that could have an effect on a family making a decision not to move here because they have a family member who is of that community, or a business could say [Temecula] doesn’t look like a place we could grow into.”
Cox also expressed concern regarding Alexander bringing her religious beliefs to the council.
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In June last year, Alexander opposed Temecula's declaration of Pride Month, saying that it would “dishonor” her god and “do nothing to contribute to the running of our city.”
In 2021, she was criticized by colleagues for an email in which she called the coronavirus the “China Virus.”
“The change was made to pacify the personal and religious feelings of one council member,” Jeff Pack, a One Temecula Valley PAC organizer, said. “It is an insult and a demotion to valuable members of the community by relegating them to a less visible and prestigious venue.”
On Tuesday, other monthly proclamations, including those that honor first responders and older residents, were approved by the council.