In an attempt to be more inclusive and accepting, Riverside City Hall will now allow commemorative flags to be flown outside their building. The 5-2 vote that okayed the decision includes flags such as the Pride flag and those for Holocaust Remembrance Day and Black History Month. Although this decision is accepted by most, concerns have risen from the two council members who voted against it, and other community members, that flying these flags will only divide and alienate people in Riverside. The concerns brought forth, however, are outdated views that uphold colonial mindsets where being different is wrong and that these differences should be shamed instead of celebrated.
Allowing these commemorative flags to be flown is a step in the right direction for more inclusivity, yet it only scrapes the surface. Choosing to prioritize commemorative flags, instead of proposing legislation that would create actual systemic change for these marginalized communities, feels like a band-aid solution to keep people happy and occupied for the moment. Furthermore, only some flags would be flown as not every heritage or identity month celebrated in the U.S. has a designated flag. The importance of these months and the significance they hold for their communities are more important than a flag.
In America, it feels like people are constantly having to defend their right to be here and exist. Attacks from white Americans have created the need for cultural months and commemorative flags to help protect these marginalized groups. Just because the problems occurring are not being witnessed by someone, that does not mean that they do not exist. Claims from members of the community that Riverside is inclusive enough or that lynchings are not a problem because they have not occurred here are insensitive to those who face real persecution for being themselves.
The country was founded through colonization and no one group, besides those indigenous to the land, should feel such a strong claim to exclude others. The ways in which these groups are celebrated here are benign and fail to address true issues. These groups are already being alienated on a daily basis and choosing to fly a flag commemorating them for one month of the year will not fix everything. It is a solution that does no harm yet it also does not create any change other than upsetting those uncomfortable with those they consider “others.”
To reach the root of the problems that are dividing Americans, better institutional changes are needed. Education is a large component in the quality of life people attain and is necessary to understand other groups and cultures so we are a more sensitive country. Not wanting to accept differences and exclude certain groups is why education is being so challenged in states that favor more conservative politics. While Riverside is considered more progressive and diverse, there are still many systemic changes that can occur. The commemorative flags are still celebrated, but should not hold so much importance in relation to the larger issues going on in the city and country.