It looks like the City of Penticton is planning to jump on the rainbow crosswalk bandwagon.
In itself, it’s not a bad idea. The brightly coloured crosswalks have been popping up in communities across North America: Seattle, Victoria, Toronto, Kelowna and Summerland.
The crosswalks themselves are proof that acceptance of diversity is not universal; if it was, there would be no need to make a political declaration of support. But just painting a crosswalk in bright colours doesn’t change anything.
It’s not very likely that we are going to see people running across a brightly-coloured crosswalk, shouting “I’ve been bullied all my life, but now I feel so free!”
Talking about his city’s rainbow crosswalks, Kelowna mayor Colin Basran said they convey the message “that all are welcome, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Certainly, the rainbow flag and rainbow crosswalks are closely associated with LGBTQ identity, but inclusivity needs to go farther than just that. Along with gender questions, inclusivity needs to address race, disability and all the other identity factors that lead to discrimination.
Council has directed city staff to develop options to demonstrate inclusivity throughout Penticton. It would be better, instead, to develop an ongoing program of supporting inclusivity through meaningful actions, and enshrining that as part of Penticton’s guiding principles.
For example, sponsoring an expanded multi-cultural festival that reached out to the LGBTQ and other marginalized communities might be one way of showing ongoing dedication to inclusivity, rather than a crosswalk whose bright colours will quickly begin to fade.
Nor can such a policy or program be developed by the city in isolation. At the very least, the local school district and the Penticton Indian Band should be asked to provide input to help shape the policy.
If Penticton really wants to show that it is a welcoming city, it needs to look further than just crossing the road.