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How we define equality in Sonoma County has consequences

At the heart of Sonoma County, you will discover the City of Healdsburg, a staple to the Wine Country which attracts tourists from around the world. While this quaint little town may appear picturesque on the outside, prominent racism has reared its grotesque head within the city limits.

In recent weeks, Healdsburg Councilmember Skylaer Palacios, an Afro-Latina woman has been exiled from entering the Council Chambers due to her vaccination status. Although Ms. Palacios completes a PCR test weekly, the Council does not deem this sufficient to protect their health. This is quite curious since 15 miles away; in the City of Santa Rosa any individual may enter the Chamber regardless of vaccination status, including a formerly unvaccinated Vice Mayor Natalie Rogers. While the City of Santa Rosa just adopted a resolution declaring racism a public health and human rights crisis, the City of Healdsburg has been continually adamant that racial discrimination is not an issue within their domain.

Just last year, the City of Healdsburg was featured in the media with the headline, ‘I wouldn’t raise kids here’: Residents grapple with racism in Healdsburg. “We don’t have this issue in our town,” Former Mayor Leah Gold stated. There appears to be a discrepancy regarding the issue of racism between the residents and those governing their city. A public commenter at a recent council meeting indicated that Ms. Palacios only holds her current position because she is a woman of color that met a diversity quota, rather than her qualifications.

At the most recent Healdsburg Council Meeting which took place on Dec. 6, 2021, protestors gathered outside City Hall to show their support for Ms. Palacios and medical freedom. During the public comment period, I stated my commentary in both Spanish and English. The Council had no translation service available and does not provide council meeting agendas/information in any languages aside from English. If equity is lacking at the governance level by means of excluding Spanish speakers, this principle is plausible in every sector.

A local nonprofit, Corazón Healdsburg which was co-founded by Council Member Ariel Kelley has also been under attack for contrived inequity. During my public comment, I stated that according to their website, they are a mission-driven human rights organization that believes in human dignity and human rights. As Aristotle has been telling us for more than 2,000 years, justice is only achieved when we have equality. According to him, there's nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals. People should be treated equitably and ethically, given their individual needs and circumstances and the differences between people should be recognized and valued, not diminished. Our community is not demanding too much when commenting on the Healdsburg City Council’s rule that only vaccinated individuals can attend council meetings in person. We just want a compassionate and just community. Based on this inevitably contradictory mission statement, I'd like to inquire why your incredible council member Skylar Palacios, an Afro-Latina woman has been denied entrance to the council chambers.

Following my public comment, CEO Glaydon de Freitas has been receiving an abundant number of inquiries regarding the validity of Corazón Healdsburg’s mission and values. The scrutiny has developed due to the organization’s pro-vaccination stance. As Ms. Palacios has expressed, people of color are less trusting of our government due to the maltreatment they continue to experience. While the organization has stated that all Latinx individuals desire to be vaccinated, this does not accurately reflect the views of Latinos in the vaccine debate. For instance, neither Ms. Palacios nor her family (Healdsburg residents) wish to be vaccinated by their own free will.

With an 80% Caucasian population, the bulk of large businesses in the City of Healdsburg are owned by Caucasian individuals. These are the folks who are developing company policies and their implementation. Undocumented employees are already afraid to cause a rift with their employer. They may feel uncomfortable vocalizing their displeasure with a vaccine mandate as it could result in the loss of employment, and the inability to provide for their families. The true definition of equity is the quality of being fair or impartial. I have requested for Corazón Healdsburg to survey their Latinx community to confirm who truly felt vaccination was the right choice for them vs. who felt coerced by their employer, family or government. The organization has not yet responded to this request.

“Justice that is not rooted in equity, in social welfare, and in community is not justice at all.” -DeRay Mckesson

This column has been updated to correctly attributed a quotation to Leah Gold.

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