NB Politicus

Four Ways to Fight Racism in Your Town

Posted in city government, civil rights, Diversity, Racism, Uncategorized by nbpoliticus on June 24, 2020

Commentary courtesy of Otherwords.org

Spontaneous, peaceful protests have been occurring in New Britain over the murder of George Floyd and systemic police violence.  A rare 15 to 0 Common Council vote declared “racism is a public health crisis.” The movement is ramping up the pressure for a Civilian Review Board and changes in city government that would emphasize more community policing and de-escalation tactics in law enforcement and more funding to education and neighborhood services. 

This commentary by Gloria Oladipo, a Cornell University student, discusses activities to keep the momentum going.

By Gloria Oladipo June 24, 2020

For weeks since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, protests have erupted across the globe. While demonstrations in larger cities have drawn the most attention in the U.S., smaller communities can be — and are — involved in the fight for racial justice.

From Medford, Oregon to Meridian, Mississippi, and many places beyond, peaceful protests have attracted hundreds. Even those in conservative, majority-white towns — some with active KKK chapters — have gathered to reject racism and violence.

It’s an encouraging sign. But not all communities have been able to hold gatherings, especially at the height of COVID-19. Thankfully, there are other ways to contribute to the fight for racial justice, even if protests have not reached your area.

1. Educate yourself.

The first step to being an effective ally is to educate yourself on racism, both structurally and in your community. A number of books are a great starting point. I recommend Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.

If you prefer watching to reading, Netflix has a number of documentaries to help understand racism and its role in the United States, including 13th and When They See Us.

Don’t forget to learn about racism and police brutality in your own community. Despite the media’s depiction of police brutality as an issue impacting mainly cities, many rural communities and suburbs also suffer from disturbing examples of police brutality.

Keep track of events in the local news. Meet with your local sheriff and ask about police accountability measures. You have a right to live in a town where the police aren’t a threat to you and others. 

2. Talk about racism at home.

One of the most impactful things that allies can do in the face of anti-Blackness is to discuss these topics at home, especially with racist people in your inner circles. Challenging racism inter-personally can help change the ideology of family and friends — or at least introduce a different perspective.

Educating your family and friends is the first step to creating new allies and fostering a more tolerant culture in your community.

3. Support racial justice organizations.

Organizations need resources to support activists on the ground, bail out protestors, and pay their bills. Funding is especially important for local organizations who may not have the same bandwidth as national organizations to raise money. For these small local groups, every dollar counts.

A simple Google search can produce thousands of results for local, smaller organizations in your area. If the internet is not accessible in your area, check local community boards. Often, groups will post flyers about events, opportunities for you to learn more about the work they do, and ways to donate to their efforts. 

4. Support struggling people.

Many Black people are exhausted and vulnerable. Many need financial help. Whether suffering from COVID-19, job loss, the death of family members, or marginalization on account of their race or gender identity, direct donations can change their lives.

Finding people in need isn’t difficult. GoFundMe has hundreds of thousands of people asking for help with basic needs. Twitter houses similar campaigns, including threads with women looking for donations to escape abusive situations or in need of general financial help.

Or, go through your local church. Ask your pastor or church board members if they are currently looking for donations to help marginalized people. Your dollars can and will change lives.

Don’t let Black Lives Matter be a passing, catchy slogan. Wherever you live, be an active ally who challenges racism at every opportunity. Everyone is responsible to fight against racism, now and always.

New Britain Election Postscript: “If Trump wins will I have to leave the country?”

Posted in civil rights, Diversity, Hate Speech, Immigration, New Britain, Presidential Politics, Racism by nbpoliticus on November 27, 2016

“If Trump wins will I have to leave the country?”

The question was asked of me by a Holmes School student when I was leaving the Masjid Al Taqwa mosque on Arch Street on a Sunday evening in August. It didn’t matter that the 5th grader has probably lived in New Britain all his life and that his parents — part of a growing Muslim American community in central CT,  vote and pay taxes.

“No,” I said without hesitation to reassure the Holmes student. “Even if Trump wins you won’t have to leave the country.”

My visit to Masjid Al Taqwa came at the invitation of  Alicia Hernandez Strong, a Weyleyan student, new officer of the Democratic Town Committee and a convert to the Muslim faith.   Evening prayer, a generous ethnic supper and a panel talk on voter registration organized by Strong were part of the evening that ended with that question from the student from Holmes, reflecting his worries and that of his  family and religious community in 2016.

Inscription at Memorial to New Britain 19th century peace activist Elihu Burritt in Franklin Square.

Inscription at Memorial to New Britain 19th century peace activist Elihu Burritt in Franklin Square. (Todesignllc.com)

Over and over again the Republican presidential nominee, amplified by an easily manipulated media,  spread an unfiltered message of exclusion and fear and “change” to make America great again. Campaign rhetoric  devoid of policy and ideas was mainly against people of the Muslim faith and  millions of others without a path to citizenship whenever Donald Trump took the stage.

In the aftermath of the election and Trump’s “win” concerns are escalating. In some places real acts of hate and violence are directed at  those who were the targets of Trump’s dog whistle rants.  His appointments, including Steve Bannon, the wife-beating publisher of  the ultra right and xenophobic Breitbart News, have done little to allay the concern.

Trump’s appeals to fear and exclusion wrapped in an empty economic populism, however, are producing counter measures.  Mayors, police chiefs, civic and religious  leaders, in their words and official actions, are pushing back against the campaign xenophobia that should make a President, even a vulgar demagogue of a President,  think twice about policies that sanction intolerance and bigotry and are a refutation of what Ellis Island was all about.

The mob portion of Trump’s support and maybe even Trump himself, emboldened by the election, will continue to fan hate and division. But there are millions of Trump voters, bothered by flaws in Hillary Clinton’s establishment candidacy or swayed by the fake news vitriol against her–who will want no part of  the hate and incivility that fueled the Trump candidacy.  In New Britain and elsewhere too many of their co-workers and the parents of children they see at the school where their kids go are on Trump’s hit list.

Post-election it’s up to me and you to tell that Muslim American Holmes School boy, or the Mexican “dreamer” student at CCSU seeking a fair path to citizenship or a refugee who got here from a strife-torn land:

No. You don’t have to leave the country because of your religion or where you are from no matter who the President is.  Your city is the “city for all people” and your neighbors won’t let that happen.

John McNamara