Tania Rodriguez: Leading the recall on Islamophobia in Plano
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Tania Rodriguez is part of the movement to recall Councilmember Tom Harrison’s seat on the Plano City Council; Councilmember Harrison fell under fire after he shared a video on his Facebook account, calling for a ban of Islam in schools. Rodriguez and fellow community members in the City of Plano have acted to remove Harrison from the council, including filing a petition that garnered over 4,400 signatures to recall his election. Now, Rodriguez hopes to utilize her experience mobilizing her community in an effort to eliminate hate speech and discrimination through the local organization Our Plano, One Plano. Rodriguez wants to eliminate discrimination, saying “it has no place in this community of ours.”
Rodriguez spent her early childhood in Mexico, living with her grandparents until she was five. She remembers her grandfather, who was a professor of history and geography, speaking to her about local politics. On one occasion, Rodriguez recounts her grandfather bringing her to a political party headquarters in Mexico. The party was gearing up for a presidential election, so all team members were in full swing to get out the vote, including her grandfather who was assisting with the selection of polling locations. Rodriguez recalls this as her first exposure to politics. Rodriguez looked up to her grandmother, who regularly accompanied her grandfather at these political events. Not only did Rodriguez’s grandmother raise four children, but she also vested her time in local politics. Rodriguez said, “she would take care of business at home and also take care of business in the community.”
Rodriguez’s politically riddled childhood prepared her for the moment she realized she had a personal interest in politics: the 2014 Texas Gubernatorial race. When Rodriguez heard about the renowned filibuster gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis conducted, she wanted to take part in the movement where women could rise up and speak out. It was then that Rodriguez began to recognize the disparity between men and women in political representation. She quickly teamed up with IGNITE, a nonprofit dedicated to building political ambition in women, to help more women, like Wendy Davis, get elected to office. Rodriguez currently leads the IGNITE Chapter at the University of Texas at Dallas.
Now, Rodriguez has taken on a new cause: she is fighting against Islamophobia in North Texas. On February 13th, Plano City Councilmember Tom Harrison shared an anti-Islamic video to his Facebook news feed depicting children in schools wearing traditional hijabs. The post said, “share if you think Trump should ban Islam in American schools.” Immediately, Rodriguez jumped into action and connected with like-minded folks in the City of Plano, keen on eliminating outward displays of xenophobia. Our Plano, One Plano, an organization dedicated to shifting the narrative on social equality in Plano, filed a petition to recall Councilmember Harrison’s seat that garnered 4,425 signatures from residents. Rodriguez knew she had to take action when she saw the video reposted on Facebook, saying “Discrimination, xenophobia, islamophobia – it has no place in this community of ours.” As a result of the petition and sequential hearing, Councilmember Harrison will undergo a recall election in November to determine whether he will be removed from the council.
Rodriguez wants other young women inspired to make change not to be afraid. She tells them, “Don’t be afraid to be smart. Don’t be afraid to share your intellect. Don’t be afraid to be the person that changes someone’s life.” Currently, Rodriguez is completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Dallas, and one day, she hopes to have a career focused on making impactful changes to the community.