Administrators for the Scripps Ranch for Diversity Facebook group are (left to right, top to bottom) Lindsay Hanlon, Sharon Camarillo, Amelia Polheber and JD Ouellette. (photo courtesy Sharon Camarillo)
Facebook group promotes diversity
During a time of unrest and palpable division in the United States, one group in Scripps Ranch is making an effort to help neighbors achieve mutual understanding and find common ground. Scripps Ranch for Diversity and Inclusion is a Facebook group that was created on June 7 by local residents Sharon Camarillo, Lindsay Hanlon and Amelia Polheber.
Although the founders expected some community interest based on conversations in other local Facebook groups, they had no idea that its popularity would grow to attract more than 1,000 members in less than a week.
“I was expecting to get more push back,” Polheber said. “It’s been amazing to see so many people come forward with support.”
According to the description on Facebook, the purpose of the group “is to help foster a community that cultivates an appreciation for diversity and inclusion … Everyone in our community is seen and valued here.”
Posts include everything from educational resources to community events to personal reflections from members representing a variety of races and religions.
“The bios are quite vulnerable and quite open,” said Lisa Souders, a retired United States Marine Corps military police officer who served for 20 years. “It shows a great deal of trust and also a bit of desperation; we’re at a place of disbelief and frustration and we’ve got to do something, finally. I am grateful for [the group’s] stories and their openness … and what we can accomplish together.”
While many members have expressed that they are encouraged in knowing that such a large group of like-minded people in favor of social justice exists in Scripps Ranch, the group’s administrators are deliberate in stating that the group is not a political platform for any one party.
“This is non-partisan. We don’t want to turn anyone off or make them feel like they are not seen, regardless of their political affiliation,” Camarillo said. “This is about human compassion and empathy and growing as a society. It’s really about core values.”
Ken Pearcy, a retired U.S. Navy sailor and Scripps Ranch resident for nearly 20 years, is also a member of the Facebook group.
“For the first time in my life, neighbors are talking to each other about racism in America and what we can do to be a part of the solution,” he said. “I think what’s exciting about this group is the potential that we can come together and start to make it right – to refuse to tolerate racism in all of its forms.”
Some members have shared their personal experiences with overt racism, while others have acknowledged their own biases, and expressed that they joined the group to listen, learn and grow.
Pearcy said that he struggled with the question of whether or not he defined himself as a racist.
“I am guilty of sins of commission and omission. I carry with me the inherited sin of my ancestors, and I now have a responsibility to make that right,” he said. “I have to believe that it’s possible. I choose to believe that I can change my behaviors. I don’t have to be a racist.”
Member Erik Strahm also acknowledged past behaviors of which he was not proud.
“I’ve been the ‘good friend’ standing next to folks when they’ve been the recipients of … racist comments and actions. I’ve been the one standing there, smiling, not knowing how to respond,” he commented.
However, he explained that remarks delivered by Camarillo during the George Floyd vigil held near Scripps Ranch High School on June 8 had a tremendous impact, sparking within him a desire for change.
JD Ouellette, a group administrator, said that one of the things that she has enjoyed most about the group is people’s lack of defensiveness in their discussions.
“You can tell that people have come with an open heart and an open mind,” she said.
Hanlon, a professional in diversity education, said that she enjoys witnessing members’ “aha moments” as they learn, and she encourages people to stay the course, even when the work gets hard.
Souders reflected upon a personal circumstance that she defined as “hard,” with regard to her own sister who is a police officer.
“She doesn’t agree with my beliefs, but she’s my blood,” she said. “I am not at a place where I am willing to sacrifice my personal beliefs for silence. So, I have to have those difficult conversations because these are the people in my life who I love dearly. And that’s hard; it’s a hell of a lot of work. But I can do that work.”