After it was announced that a restaurant would open in Amarillo with the name of “Big Beaners” Ali Ramos took it upon herself to create a change.org petition to try to encourage the restaurant owner to reconsider the name. Ali began the distribution of the petition and recently hit 10,000 signatures in less than a week of the petition being active. Ali has urged community members to listen to the voices of those that have been discriminated against their entire life because of reasons like the color of their skin, their sexual orientation/gender identity, and the way their body and mind functions. She is an outspoken advocate seeking to better her community and is committed to not being neutral in situations of injustice.
IN HER OWN WORDS: Ali Ramos
What does pride mean to you?
Pride means to unabashedly claim equality and visibility for LGBTQ+ rights. No one should be discriminated against for love. Pride is to have the freedom to hold hands with your partner in public. Pride is to adopt a child without fear of rejection because your spouse is the same gender as you. Pride is to fight for equitable rights that helps your community flourish in society. Besides, there isn’t anything more beautiful than seeing a rainbow after it rains.
Is there anything you would like to promote about you or about yourself?
I am a fierce anti-racist, disability / LGBTQ+ rights advocate with a mouth that just can’t stop calling people out for oppressive views. I just graduated from Columbia University with my Masters Degree in Social Work and am about to become licensed so that I can call myself a social worker. One organization that I am a board member of and that is very dear to my heart is NMD United. We’re a nonprofit organization that is comprised of adults living with a neuromuscular disorder. We educate others on what it truly means to live with a disability while providing informative resources. We offer microgrants for personal care attendant ads, medical supplies, assistive technology, and more. I am also a graphic designer, and although I took a step back while completing my education, I hope to get back into creating more pieces (kittylegs.net).
What inspired you to set up the petition?
When I originally heard what the restaurant was going to be called, I thought, “This has to be a joke, right?” Then I heard that the owner was a white, local attorney with no regard for how the name effects an entire community. The owner of the restaurant proceeded to attack people who disagreed with him on social media, while having absolutely no filter or respect for opposition. As a woman with a disability, I have had several examples of oppression throughout my life. People would infantilize, fetishize, and dismiss my presence as if my weak body meant I was less than their strong one. I am white, so I do not claim to know how it feels to be discriminated against purely based on skin color alone. I do empathize with the struggle of screaming for others to listen and to be ignored. When I saw other people in the Amarillo community were also angry that this restaurant was going to be opened, we all joined together in a Facebook group to see if something could be done to speak out against the blatant racism and dismissal of people’s anger towards the name. We have received almost 11,000 signatures on the change.org site and are working together to protest the complacency that others have towards the name. We’re hoping to provide education on how our words have consequences even if you think that free speech means absolute immunity.
How do you think white folks can show up for Black and brown folks right now?
White folks need to be able to open their minds and not interject their opinions of BIPOC’s experiences, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel. This is the time to educate yourself on what systemic racism means and recognizing how white privilege is prevalent in your life. The internet is filled with resources that can be found with little to no effort. Do your own research. White people aren’t colorblind and by saying this, you’re dismissing the lived experiences of people of color. Sit down and listen. Be an ally. Do the work to become an anti-racist. Be open to criticism. Be transparent.
Why are you an Equality Texan?
I believe that in order for change to happen with LGBTQ+ rights, it must start with political advocacy. It’s important for Texans to have a voice and a place to turn for challenging the current system. Our citizens must have protection against discrimination, bullying, and harassment. Without having an organization to fall back on, there’s a feeling of hopelessness. As an Equality Texan, I can work to ensure every child and adult has a place to be heard and to be cared for.
When did you start your advocacy work?
Before I went to school for social work, I spent a little over a decade focusing on my illustrations and graphic design business. I sat behind a computer, day in and day out. The only outside world I would speak to during the day were emails requesting work to be done. I felt as though I could be doing much more. I watched as my disabled and queer friends organized petitions, marches, and movements to gain equality while I sat in the background. I decided to go back to school for social work to gain the knowledge needed for advocacy and mental health work. It took about 6 years to complete my Bachelor’s and Master’s, but I finally finished in May. I hope to gain my LCSW in the next two years and open my own nonprofit organization in the Amarillo area, targeted for the mental health of groups that have been pushed to the side. I’d like to create an open and loving environment where people are comfortable and learn abilities that others have told them that they’d never succeed in. They’ll build their self-esteem, skills for job performance, and learn how to self-soothe in stressful situations.