KIRO NEWSRADIO OPINION

Angela Poe Russell: We need to end the Pride flag debate, take real action

Jun 19, 2024, 9:29 AM | Updated: 9:39 am

Image: A Pride flag flies under a flag of the United States at Oakland Alameda Coliseum in Oakland,...

A Pride flag flies under a flag of the United States at Oakland Alameda Coliseum in Oakland, California, during an MLB game between the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP)

(Photo: Jeff Chiu, AP)

For the last week, I’ve struggled to wrap my head around all the debates around public symbols, flags and declarations  and I was well prepared to express my frustration with it.

I just felt like we were missing the bigger picture.

Let me offer a little context: The holiday Juneteenth commemorates the day in 1865 when Union troops arrived in Texas announcing more than 250,000 enslaved Black people in the state were free. While this historical moment was no secret, it was after the 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Department officers and the subsequent protests when the government decided to make this a federal holiday. But other than a day off, my life didn’t change because of the holiday. I wasn’t sure how this was going to reduce racism.

Companies issued Black Lives Matter statements and hung banners. I never did hang a banner, but I did join some committees to do the work to make things better. Real work often happens behind the scenes. But that doesn’t mean we should hide behind them.

More from Angela Poe Russell: It’s time to reimagine public restrooms

For someone who has been the target of an attack based on identity, one symbol or declaration can mean everything.

The Pride flag for the LGBTQ+ community feels like welcome, love and support.

For other targeted groups, someone using their voice to speak up has a way of quieting the hateful noise. It’s like lighting one candle in a dark room. Why wouldn’t we want to do that?

The government’s role is to represent the people, while rejecting hate. And the people are diverse. While governments can face some legal risks, those challenges are not insurmountable.

And highlighting one vulnerable group doesn’t mean another doesn’t matter.

And it also doesn’t mean everyone has to like it.

Part of living in the United States is we coexist despite varying religions, political views and ethnicities.

More of Angela Poe Russell’s commentaries: What we can all learn from Harrison Butker’s shocking speech

But here is the key: While public displays are meaningful, the action that follows matters most. Questioning whether someone is homophobic or racist because they don’t raise a flag is just as concerning as assuming that someone who does is putting in the work. And that’s why we can’t get hung up on them.

Flags without followup is nothing more than a sugar high with a crash coming. So on this Juneteenth, I’ll look at this symbol of a holiday as an invitation to not only have gratitude for the gesture, but to keep engaging in actions that ultimately create change.

Angela Poe Russell fills in as a host on KIRO Newsradio and has been around Seattle media in different capacities for a number of years. Read more of Angela’s commentaries here and follow her on X here.

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Angela Poe Russell: We need to end the Pride flag debate, take real action