Responding to injustice
Last Sunday I sat in the back room of Tea in Sahara with a group of largely African American people, sharing our feelings about the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida a month ago. The community forum was hosted by the Africana Reading Collective - and lots of people turned out. It is something we needed to talk about . We needed to talk about the reality of racial profiling and the racism that is in evey fiber of our society; about being a Black parent of Black children, especially boys; about the experiences of people in the room; about the fact that had the killer been Black, he would have been thrown in jail faster than he knew what hit him. Since then there have been several rallies in Providence and elsewhere and the story stays in the news.
Trayvon's death has touched a raw nerve. It is critical that these conversations take place. It is critical that we understand that this was not an isolated incident. Mothers and fathers in Providence have painful stories to tell. While we talked last week, Shaima Aliwadi was brutally murdered in San Diego, a hateful message left near her body ("This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist."). We learned of the shooting of a 68 year old African American man by police in his home in White Plains NY. And Worcester is beginning a conversation about profiling there, triggered by an incident with a 14 year old boy outside his own home last summer.
Racism is a deep thread in American life and it has profound impacts on many lives every day,, yet discussion of it seemed to disappear from public discourse. Some want to believe that because we have a Black president there is a level playingfield now, that we are "post-racial". For others that same fact has been the cause of intense dis-ease - and the cause for buying a whole lot of guns and for becoming more bold in their comments and actions. For others the major change was that things were getting worse, with more profling and an increase use of racist language. There are people out there who are more than happy to whip up these tensions for their own purposes.
These events make it clear that we need to talk. We need to listen to the people who are speaking up about the reality of their every day experiences. White people need to understand how racism pervades the social structures and institutions we are all a part of as well as the ways it, usually unintentionally, emerges in our relationships with people of color. And together we need to insist that these incidents are not acceptable, that there must be justice not just in these very visible cases, but throughout our communities.
There are a variety of ways to begin. AFSC-SENE is hosting a community potluck and discussion with PrYSM (Providence Youth Student Movement, a program with mostly Asian youth) on Saturday April 14th. Join us if you can. There is an accountability process developing in Worcester - stay tuned. You can join the effort in RI to pass a bill that would limit some of police practices most prone to racial profiling. You can sign the petition calling for passage of the bill. There is information on all of these events in the calendar. More importantly, you can talk with others about how these fault lines of race, class and gender are cracking right now. Such cracks can go either way - it takes the involvement of those committed to justice being engaged to make sure that we move forward. I look forward to sharing the jouney with you.
As noted, the calendar has been updated and is FULL of activities, beginning with all kinds of things on Saturday. Tax Day and May Day are coming up. Please let us know about your plans so we can help spread the word!
Many thanks for all you do to work for peace and justice.