June 02, 2020

POV: Resist Hate. Embrace Justice.

When I was a young activist in my community the community leaders I followed instilled in me the importance of working for change at a local level. They spoke often about the need to grow and learn and to live in other places but to also return back to the west side (my neighborhood) so that I could lead.

 This has been the way that I have lived my life for the past two decades. And I’ve been fortunate to live in other places, to travel to various parts of the world, and to have experiences and opportunities that lead me back to the west side. All of this has made me into the person that I am today. I haven’t been perfect. I haven’t always participated. I haven’t always done what others want of me. And I have even let myself down a time or two.  

Demanding justice and equality is nothing to be ashamed of. It is our human right and as Americans it is central to the creation of our country--even with its sordid history of slavery, murder, and inequality. What I have been struggling with this past week (and for the last several years to be honest) is how and why we have created a divided space in our society. You either support Black Lives Matter or you support law enforcement. You either support our military or you take a knee and want anarchy. You either want health care for all or you want people to suffer. You either want justice or you support the killing of unarmed black folkx.  

And this division makes me sick. What I am about to say may be problematic and I apologize; it’s not my intention to offend or alienate. It isn’t about protesting or keeping the peace and it certainly isn’t about vandalism. It is about justice. It is about an entire community of people dying at disproportionate levels compared to others (in the streets, in their homes, and also during this pandemic).  

Our history in the United States is riddled with riots, racism, and protesting: Stonewall, Chicano Movement, Civil Rights, Kent State, Women’s Movements, and many more. We as a people have always been fighting for something. We have been fighting to be heard. We have been fighting to have the same rights of others and we have been fighting for our lives. And that fight is central to us as Americans. It is disheartening that there is an inappropriate connection indicating that if you are fighting for the rights of others (including equality and justice), you are automatically not American. When did that become a thing?  

Leaders brew everywhere and they are in each of us. We lead at different intensities, we contribute in different ways, and we can choose to lead for good or bad.  

As leaders it is incumbent on each of us to assure that everyone in our lives (even complete strangers) has the opportunity to be heard, the opportunity for justice, the opportunity to exist in the world without fear of dying each time they leave the house. As leaders it is our responsibility to be community builders and to find ways that we can support those living in our communities. And being on the right side of history is the just thing to do. We have to start with honest dialogue that is rooted in our emotional and biased responses but also rooted in facts. Every one of us has a bias that guides our decision making process and fuels our emotions. It is a fact that our prison population is predominately people of color where on the outside people of color are in the minority. It is a fact that black folkx die at a higher rate when there is a confrontation with law enforcement compared to their white peers.  

To be a better community builder: 

I will resist hate  
I will financially contribute to local causes that support justice and equality 
I will have uncomfortable conversations 
I will listen to others  
I will correct facts when needed 
I will be anti-racist 
I will not give up 
I will honor who I am and where I have come from 
I will lead with authenticity and peace in my heart 

How are you going to dismantle hate and racism and create a community that is equitable and just for everyone?   

Want more? Listen to Kate Rubalcava read this post.