Temecula City Hall.
Temecula City Hall. Credit: Shutterstock / David Tonelson

S.E. Williams |

The name Temecula, comes from the Luiseño Indian word, Temecunga. In their language, ‘temet’ means sun and ‘ngna’ means “place of”. So it seems appropriate that we should shine some light on the cesspool of racists sentiments that currently pervade this modern day city. 

Racism in Temecula, like most of America, is not new and actually began with the eviction of the Temecula Indians by white ranchers in 1875, recorded as one of the most significant events in the history of the Pechanga people according to the government of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians. It stripped them of their homes, livelihoods, and many of their possessions…as was and in some ways is still the American way. 

As indicated by its name, the need to shine continuous light on the city of Temecula is certainly warranted as evidenced  by the racism that continues to occur there again and over again. 

“[N]o matter how much mainstream historical scholarship and teaching curricula expose and explain the Lost Cause traditions [of the Confederacy], they endure—especially for those in search of a past that they believe will relieve them of the present. Some Americans are forever in search of safe havens for racial ideologies that reject the dynamism of the multiethnic America the nation has become.”

David W. Blight

Temecula’s current leadership, whether it’s the city council, the school board, a religious organization  like the 412 Church or political organizations like the Inland Empire Family PAC, are helping to polarize and separate the community along racial and ideological lines, in the process, fostering feelings of resentment and distrust throughout the city and beyond. 

Consider this series of recent actions by city leaders: Temecula city council will no longer declare Black, Hispanic, Asian heritage or Gay Pride Months; Temecula City Council rejects anti-abortion resolution-but it could return; Temecula Valley Unified school board bans critical race theory in district schools; Anti-Mask [Temecula] councilwoman compares herself to Rosa Parks stating “I’m Getting Pushed to the Back of the Bus”; and Homophobic Temecula councilmember rails against Pride proclamation.

Temecula City Council. (source: temeculaca.gov).

And then, there is the series of racist acts from within the community itself in recent years.  For example, Racial Slurs Hurled at Cheer Squad During Football Game in Temecula; Temecula school employee fired for racist comments in TikTok, husband placed on leave;  Parents revolted against critical race theory. Here’s how they won; Temecula Valley High Racist Graffiti Targets Black Student.

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All is not lost

Despite these realities, in August 2020, the council passed resolution No. 2020- 59 which established the Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) Commission whose mission seems contrary to the council’s declaration to no longer declare Black, Hispanic, Asian heritage or Gay Pride months, REDI is moving in the opposite direction as evidenced by its 2023 Proclamations that includes African American History, Women’s History, Arab American Heritage,  Asian American and Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander, Jewish American Heritage, Pride Month, Hispanic/Latino Heritage and Native American Heritage Months for the city in 2023. Although this is welcomed action, it does appear the city is trying to have it both ways as if it is trying to somehow save face. 

However, the REDI Commission has been under attack by right wing Temecula City Council Member Jessica Alexander who has  been described as a “conservative firebrand. She stated during a council meeting in August 2021, that she doesn’t think the council should be focused on the issue of racism.   “Race is not our thing here. It has to be taken care of in the church. I can’t be your therapist.” 

With an extremist like Alexander on the council and the newly elected conservative majority on the city’s school board–even though the student population is now 60% students of color–the future of Temecula, like the rest of America, is obviously at a crossroads. 

Despite the barrage of right-wing extremists actions by those stuck in a mindset of the “Lost Cause” and no matter what temporary victories they attain, the tide of history is against them, and shifting demographics will eventually drown such acts of hatred and vitriol like a sunami washes away everything in its wake. 

Even today, students are taking a stand, as are many community leaders, parents, and others who are speaking out against acts of racism at school board and council meetings. 

I am of the belief that every condition is only temporary and as the ancestors whispered, “this too shall pass”. But, we are not powerless in the moment. Temecula’s wineries attract a lot of tourism, weddings, and jazz lovers to its concerts, and in the process, bolsters the city’s economy. One of the most powerful tools we have against a mindset of racism and intolerance is to fight back with our dollars. 

Until things in the city change, I will no longer attend jazz performances there or encourage friends and relatives who visit the inland region to tour its wineries. Temecula should no longer be an option for brunch or a venue for weddings. 

I encourage people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ communities and all who believe in an inclusive future where every group’s history and contributions are valued, to do the same.

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real. 

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.