Reflection, Investigation, and Analysis
Reflection, Recommitment, and Action:
One Year After Charlottesville
Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities President & CEO Jonathan Zur
August 11, 2018, |
One year ago this weekend, members of hate groups descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia. The violence that ensued resulted in three tragic deaths, as well as injuries to dozens of people. Twelve months later, it is clear that pain experienced prior to and during that weekend is still powerfully felt by many across the country — and especially those of us in Virginia.
As we mark this terrible anniversary, the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities calls on our friends and neighbors to make this weekend a time of reflection, recommitment, and action.
Sadly, the urgency to address prejudice, discrimination, and injustice remains great. At VCIC, we continue to receive regular requests for support from schools, workplaces, and localities grappling with bias. These incidents include name-calling, harassment, and physical violence directed toward African Americans, Asians, Latinos, refugees, immigrants, members of the Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh communities, LGBT people, and more. They take place on playgrounds, in classrooms and school hallways, in offices, in grocery stores, in malls, and in parking lots.
Our experience at VCIC is not unique. Over the last three years, national organizations, law enforcement agencies, and state and federal departments have documented increases in hate in K-12 schools, at colleges and universities, and in communities across the country. So if you, like us, continue to be horrified by what you saw in Charlottesville on August 11-12, 2017, then we must be ever vigilant in fighting the ongoing presence of hatred and injustice in our communities.
There are many important ways to take action. The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ work over the last twelve months has increasingly focused on three broad themes:
- Assess Your Lens — A foundational step before working to advance inclusion is to acknowledge that each of us has a lens, and to consider how that lens was shaped. Ask yourself, how did you learn about people with different identities? From whose perspective were you taught about your community’s history? How is it that you came to a particular perspective about an issue? Why might your perspective be similar to or different from that of others? And, as the Center for Courage & Renewal teaches, when you notice differences, make an effort to respond with wonder rather than judgment.
- Be Intentional about Learning — After examining your lens and considering how your perspective may differ from others, identify and pursue opportunities to learn. The Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ Resources page could be one place to look. In addition to reading books or articles that expose you to a new perspective, attend community events that enhance your learning, and enter into authentic relationships with individuals from different backgrounds with a spirit of humility. Take care to be the owner of your personal learning journey and not wait for or force others to teach you.
- Confront Institutional Bias — As Peggy McIntosh notes, prejudice goes beyond “individual acts of meanness.” It is important to recognize and confront the ways in which institutional policies, practices, structures, and traditions continue to result in different outcomes solely based on identity. These biases range from disparities in school discipline based on race, to the gender pay gap in the workplace, to quality transportation that is inaccessible to certain communities. Today’s institutional biases are shaped by the residue of historically unjust laws and practices, and they must be interrogated and addressed with focus and persistence.
Aligned with these themes, we at VCIC have been heartened by the number of people who have shown up, stepped up, and taken positive actions to promote inclusion and equity in the last year. A record number of people have contacted our office to volunteer and get involved. We have been honored to receive an unprecedented number of donations over the last twelve months. More and more institutions are reaching out to request our programs and services.
But the need remains great and the work must go on if we are going to root out prejudice and injustice wherever they show up. Together, let’s make this weekend a time to reflect on and recommit to those actions that will achieve a truly inclusive Virginia. And then, let’s get back to work.
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