Our post yesterday about the hate incidents and crimes we've seen unfold via internet links calls for suggestions on how to be a witness for equity and justice.
We see today that last night the police in Minneapolis, MN drove people protesting the death of George Floyd into the streets with tear gas and rubber bullets. Mr. Floyd is the man who apparently died when a police officer knelt on his neck for what witnesses said was several minutes. The crowds that came to protest were very diverse, many people outraged by this death. That diversity did not stop the use of force by the Minneapolis police. We have no knowledge of what transpired last night, but we do see that for once people's 'whiteness' did not confer privilege. Yes, there are risks to standing for justice no matter who you are.
So we are confronted as well by our own apprehensions and fears if we, no matter who we are, stand up to power, speak truth to power. What can we do if we are of brittle bone and unfirm stance but still wish to make our anger and our anguish known on these issues of injustice? More to the point, how can we be proactive in preventing hate actions rather than reactive to them? I once said I'd never again go to a candlelight vigil for victims of hate. My work in life was to create whatever conditions I could to assure we didn't need them. That work goes on.
If we genuinely wish to stop acts of hate, we need to begin with opposing it. We need to attend city and county public meetings, generally safe spaces, to raise our voices. Silence implies indifference if not actual consent to crimes against people under "color of authority". This is where we can make sure that's not swept under the rug, where we demand that our officials act with decency.
But this is a long process that needs, once again, to interrupt "common sense" bigotry at the start. Yes, it's true hate is not inborn but taught. We can reverse that process. In 2000 I was living in Yolo County, CA, a fairly rural community but a diverse one. It's also the home of University of California, Davis making Davis a pretty liberal town in a fairly conservative county. Nevertheless, Yolo has been a leader in confronting hate crimes. The county obtained a grant from the Southern Poverty Law Center to have a three-year program implementing their excellent program, "Teaching Tolerance". There was a wonderful man from the Sheriff's office whose sole job was to go from school to school with this program. He was welcomed in every school but one, and over the course of time, hate crimes dropped off, and bullying subsided. Of the crimes or incidents that did occur, the perpetrators could all be traced to the one school where the "Teaching Tolerance" curriculum had not been used. You rarely get data that are this blatant, but the experience served to show how important education of young people can be to ending hateful behavior.
As adults move to make their voices heard by public officials, we can simultaneously educate our young people. Denominations, interfaith groups, youth ministries as well as civic organizations and school districts can access "Teaching Tolerance" curricula including online resources. Grants are available with simple, clear guidelines if personnel are needed to implement an extensive program. For more information on where to start, you can go here
For specifics on interfaith understanding, don't forget our "oldie but goodie", Building Bridges of Understanding. Produced by California Council of Churches in the wake of 9/11 and the uptick of anti Muslim hate (that is once again revived), you can self instruct via our online and downloadable study guide. For a copy of the guide, please go here Building Bridges is at the bottom of the list. The video that accompanies the guide is in very short supply, so please let us know by return on this email if you're interested, and we will try to ferret out a copy.
For combating anti-LGBTQ hate, also on the increase, that same link can take you to our study guide, Living Lovingly. With all our study guides, directions on how to lead study circles and to engage conversations are given. We see these as ways to interact with people who are uncertain about how our faith principles dovetail with justice issues, how to give safe space for hard discussions and meaningful resolutions.
This is how we start. We need the commitment and the will. We don't have to be maced to make a stand.
Do whatever you can, however you can, for as long as you can. It all counts.