Following the scrawling of racist graffiti on the homes of three African refugee families in Concord, members of the community organized “Love Your Neighbor” rallies September 24 and again September 28.  AFSC’s Maggie Fogarty was one of the speakers at the second rally, which was organized by the Concord Interfaith Council.   The following is a slightly edited version of her statement:

Thank you to everyone who has created this opportunity to say “we love each other,” to say “we are a community that cares for each other,” and “We will work together to heal wounds caused by racism and intolerance.”  Thank you all for bearing witness to the truth that nonviolence overcomes hate and fear, as light overcomes the darkness. 

This occasion is bigger than Concord.  The pain caused by this racist graffiti reaches far. 

Immigrant and refugee households all over the state have been shaken by this.  They have felt this attack personally and wondered for their safety.  And so many people feel heartbroken and ashamed, that families who have already seen too much, who have endured war and homelessness and the chaos of forced migration would face this kind of assault here in their new home, their place of refuge. 

This is a moment for all of us—people of faith, people of conscience and commitment, to pause and reflect.  This is a moment to be open to transformation, a transformation brought on by listening to each other with humility, especially to newcomers and people of color in our communities. 

Sadly, they tell us that they experience racism here, even when the act itself does not make the news or get labeled a crime.  Acts of racism—in the form of indifference, discrimination, or violence—are committed each day against people of color.  It is what some have called the “death by a thousand cuts,” how racism tears away at the soul and sense of possibility in a person.  Let us listen to people of color when they tell us how they have been wounded by racism.  Let us listen and believe.  It may be painful, but it is worth doing.  And we will be better for it.

And something else that is hard is to look honestly at ourselves, and acknowledge that these desperate economic times—with unemployment and foreclosure and bills coming due with no way to pay them—can summon our own demons.  Times like these can trigger us to look with suspicion at one another and begin to blame each other for our suffering.  It has happened again and again throughout our history, and it is happening again now as we are told that immigrants and refugees are making matters worse. 

Surely there are fights to fight, but they are not with our suffering brothers and sisters. 

We must say “No, I will not give in to scapegoating and xenophobia, no matter what.”  We are better than that. 

In fact, we need each other badly right now, more than we have in my lifetime, more than we have in a long time.  We need to share. 

And immigrants and refugees can be our best teachers of how to share with each other, and pull together in hard times.

And so my prayer for all of us is that we allow the energy of this moment to keep working on us—challenging us, pushing us into a fuller understanding of who our neighbors are, and what loving them might mean.  Let us inspire each other to draw ever larger circles until all of us are neighbor and all of us are loved.

Maggie Fogarty is NH Economic Justice Project Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee.  

You can see more photos from the rally on our Flickr page.