“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Benjamin Franklin
The two major political parties in our country seem to have inconsistent views about what it means to be an American. Democrats claim to value all people regardless of actual or perceived race, color, creed, sex, age, national origin, economic status, religion, ethnic identity, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and physical appearance or disability. The voting records of Democrats in Washington seems to consistently reflect these stated beliefs. Republican politicians, however, seem to value protecting the rights of white, protestant males (preferably ones that make a lot of money). While this seems to be a simplistic comment that does not reflect the views of all the good Republicans I know, it is difficult to ascertain a different view when watching the past several years of legislative voting records of the majority of red state politicians in Congress.
The 116th Congress has taken steps to learn about the violent white supremacist threat facing our nation. Nearly 50 bills, resolutions and hearings have taken place in the House and Senate since 2020 identifying white supremacist violence as the most lethal threat facing the United States. This affront to democracy is rooted in a national trend towards systematic discrimination. The ongoing movement against police brutality illustrates just how much work is yet to be done to end structural racism and discrimination across policy areas. Countering acts of domestic terror that seek to intimidate racial, ethnic, and religious communities is central to eradicating violence driven by white supremacy, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and other ideologies that contradict fundamental American values. This would indicate that lawmakers have the responsibility to pass legislation to ensure that 2021 does not become another year of increased hate crimes, domestic terror incidents, and white supremacist activity.
It’s easy to think of these incidents of discrimination as something that happens “elsewhere” …far away from me. However, last summer a letter to the editor in our local newspaper from a young Asian woman (born and raised in Gratiot County) who was shopping at a local store was told by a white, male shopper to “Go back where you came from...we don’t want you here!” Alma College foreign students from Africa have been welcomed to our community with racial slurs shouted at them from a pick-up truck donned with confederate flag decals disfiguring the vehicle. Even on the playgrounds at our local schools, reports have been made of Hispanic children being harassed by other students because they look “different” than most of their classmates.
How do we go forward from here? What kind of an action plan needs to be embraced by society to stop harassment and inequity in human rights. Perhaps, we need to begin by examining our own personal beliefs and actions. By acknowledging our biases and considering where they may have originated, we may begin to learn to recognize and understand our own privilege. Only then will we be able to validate the experiences and feelings of those who are different from us.
The Next Chapter Book Club and the Reid-Knox Forums have taken steps to help us look within ourselves to begin a journey of personal growth in understanding white supremacy and exploring peaceful conflict resolution. Look on our website for information about these two groups and how you can be involved.
With Love & Respect,