by Sandy Holman
We are living in perilous times. Even as an eternal optimist, who will never lose hope for humanity, tries to see love in everyone, and has dedicated my life’s work to encouraging people to love themselves, others, and to share power and resources, I know something is snapping. Hate, evil, and inequity, in all our major institutions, in the U.S and the world, have been around since the beginning of time, disproportionately affecting people of color and the financially oppressed, but something is changing at the core of all our humanity in an insidious and dangerous way. It is not a time to be quiet or still.
There are many causes for our current state of affairs, a few of which are:
- Lack of governmental action against inequities which are systemically, structurally, and historically favorable of certain groups over others.
- Irrational propaganda surrounding President Obama, who is considered to be the first African-American president in our country, and his administration. Regardless of one’s political preferences, it is important to note that no other president has had to tolerate being bombarded with racially-motivated attacks.
- An overall suppressed economy, which leaves many of the world’s citizens in poverty. Such conditions cater to fear, hatred, and manipulation of the general populous by those with nefarious intentions.
- The greed-driven desires of certain entities to maintain power, which allow a very small percentage of people to control the majority of the world’s resources.
The aforementioned are just a few of the reasons we are faced with intensifying challenges, which often make me wonder what year this is. I thought I was back in the ‘60s as I watched television and witnessed countless confederate flags flying as people fought for their right to honor what they saw as “Southern Heritage.” The fact that there has been a tremendous increase in the sales of the confederate flag, following the church shooting in Charleston where lives were lost due to ignorance, is a telling indication of the continued sin of a country which has not faced up to its checkered past when it comes to racism and other “-isms.” Of course there are countless tragedies in our country, and around the world, which should have woken us up already, and I am not sure what it is going to take for us to truly get committed to humane and just changes in every facet of life. For those of you who are already working hard to make a difference, I commend you.
This humble call to action is for those who feel that what is happening in our country, and our world, has nothing to do with them, and therefore have chosen to remain uninvolved. I truly want to encourage you to reconsider because, with the way things are going, you will be affected, sooner are later, by the latest tragedy steeped in hate. Below are a few ways to fight hate and promote equity, cultural competency, diversity and social justice. There are many more, but I hope you see these as a beginning. In the end, I hope you do something, no matter what it is, and add to the love that is so needed in a hurting world. I hope you share some power, too.
1) Know Yourself. Examine your own shortcomings, blind spots, bias, “-isms” and deficits, and work to change them. Discover what talents, gifts, and capacities you have to make a difference and commit to doing so in an area that is passionate for you. (Perhaps your passion is inequities facing women, or advocacy for youth.)
2) Make the effort to interact with people of various cultures. Go to workshops, presentations, forums, celebratory events, and meet people from around your world with different faces from different places. Read books that portray diverse world perspectives and come from varying ethnic authors so that you can develop a more holistic outlook. In general, increase your level of cultural competency within and between cultural groups, which is based on building awareness, knowledge, skills and becoming a proactive individual. Remember stereotypes thrive in isolation, misinformation, and through limiting your exposure to different cultures (i.e. getting your perceptions about other groups of people solely from the media). Meet some people who are different than you, and interact with them regularly.
3) Acknowledge and familiarize yourself with the underlying factors that contribute to inequity. If you do not take any other workshop, you need to attend one that explores and explains the historic, structural and systemic factors, constructs, and policies that have created every gap in all of our major systems and institutions. It will make the solutions you devise to address challenges become more likely to succeed, because they will be targeted at the roots of the problems we often see today. By not doing this, it is easy to blame people and various groups for all that is happening to them. You will also understand why current approaches often do not work. This suggestion is absolutely critical if we are truly going to change systems and their impact. (The Culture C.O.-. O.P. offers a workshop like this nationally)
4) Research Systems Theory. Gain an intimate understanding of how oppressive systems work and impact peoples’ lives so that, like a puzzle where you put all the pieces together, you begin to see what truly needs to be addressed. What is happening goes way beyond just individual accountability (although that plays a role too). This will make you a more effective advocate in making change in your community and beyond.
5) Connect with your cause. Collaborate with others or an organization to take action when something happens in your community. In fact, create a plan to be proactive, and not just reactive, when hate or injustice rears its ugly head. Vigils, marches, and protests are great, but creating a plan and implementing it to create a safe, equitable and just environment, one that is inhospitable to bigotry and intolerance, will provide you and your community with an invaluable tool in responding to hateful situations.
6) Don’t reinvent the wheel. Familiarize yourself with national and local organizations which have information, templates, and approaches that have been successful in fighting hate so that you do not reinvent the wheel. You can email me at email@example.com to get obtain a sample list which will link you to others. They also have valuable research and information that will be extremely helpful to you.
7) Do your research so you know what is the best response for whatever issue you are trying to address. Some actions are more appropriate than others and will yield a better result.
8) Remember that the youth are the future. Instill love and respect in our youth whenever possible using your wonderful talents, parenting skills and acquired tools so we can begin to impact future generations in a positive way. This may mean you decide to mentor someone and that is a powerful thing you can do!
9) Do something when hate or injustice occurs in your community or beyond. Support people who have been victimized. Staying silent sends the wrong message and allows hate to grow.
10) Petition our leaders. One letter is considered like 100 so let them know how you feel about their actions, policies they are voting on that will hurt people, and in the end by your vote when it is election time. Send a strong message that injustice will not be tolerated.
11) Once a month, challenge yourself to meet someone new, go some place different or learn something that can make the world a better place. This has changed my life, and my friends reflect the world we live in. It has enriched my life tremendously and I have many allies as a result. Truly commit to interacting with real people and learn about their culture, history and life story. It will transform you. These are just a few things you can do to get started or continue your journey!
Edited by Hannah Vahldick. Sandy Holman is a Davis resident and Executive Director of The Culture Co-OP. The Culture C.O.-O.P. promotes understanding and respect for diversity/equity, cultural competency, literacy and a quality education for all. We accomplish our mission through a comprehensive approach which engages key partners who interface regularly with youth.