Month: January 2021

Neighborhood FORWARD’s Statement on Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

We’ve known there are two Americas for some time now.

All summer, we watched as the country marched against police brutality, trying to get the point across that Black Lives Matter. In response, law enforcement rolled through our cities in tanks, sporting weapons of war trained on the very people they swore to protect. When Black America protested, our institutions responded violently and rapidly.

Last week, the rage of those who have felt left behind by progress was on full display. Emboldened by a refusal of their “leader” to condemn white supremacy, whether in Charlottesville or during the Presidential debates, domestic terrorists sought to interfere with a free election and murder high government officials. Bearing nooses and the flag of traitors, they attacked our country.

We’ve known the deck was stacked against people of color for decades. We didn’t, however, know how willing some in government would be to invite this plague into our house.

Between law enforcement spurring terrorists past the barricades and defiant Republican politicians applauding their presence, this was not a display of white privilege, this was a display of white power. It’s a power that is reinforced by our institutions and evident throughout our history. For the last four years, that power has been wielded and weaponized by a significant group of our elected officials.

We deserve better.

Neighborhood FORWARD denounces these actions in the strongest possible terms. The fact that domestic terrorists, encouraged by vicious lies from their authority figures, were allowed to take the house of the people is unacceptable. The fact that they took pictures bragging about their insurrection is unacceptable. The fact that they were encouraged to do this is unacceptable.

No, we don’t want to hear that our leaders are standing in solidarity with us. No, we don’t want to see them kneel while wearing kente cloth. No, we don’t want to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” with a group seeking the erasure of our neighborhoods and safety.

We want real change, right now. Bold, common-sense reforms are needed to rectify the issues facing us. Providing affordable housing to combat historic redlining can help marginalized groups generate wealth. Prioritizing rehabilitation instead of punishment can end the cycle of recidivism. Making elections simpler for all can erase the legacy of decades of voter suppression.

These reforms can help solve the greatest issues of our time.

The rise of far-right extremism is but one of the many challenges facing our country. It permeates our institutions, communities, and relationships. To combat it, we need structural changes that reinforce the rights of people of color and move our communities forward.

Neighborhood FORWARD calls on every federal elected official to condemn last week’s insurrection. We dually call on Congress and the Biden administration to prioritize efforts to reform, reinvest, and reimagine communities of color across the country.

Moving forward is only possible by looking backwards. As such, let us never forget the events of January 6. May they inspire us to forego empty rhetoric and pursue genuine change.

It’s Time to Have That Uncomfortable Conversation

Being an ally is more than showing up every couple years for a protest. It’s more than putting a black square on your social media, and it’s more than voting for president. Being an ally is an unending process by which individuals can build trust and solidarity with marginalized groups. It isn’t absolute, nor is it easy. But it is something to aspire to in 2021 and every year that follows.

To start, understand that the path of allyship is uncomfortable. You’ll be faced with your implicit biases as well as the real effects that your skin color has had on your life. Be realistic about the world around you and detach your ego from conversations about social justice. Just because you’ve worked hard in life doesn’t mean that you didn’t benefit from systemic injustice.

Learning and listening are the name of the game for allies. Actively researching how our systems impact marginalized groups can broaden how you view your own life. Certainly, that research should include listening to individuals in those marginalized groups. When listening, don’t interrupt with counterpoints, nor play down their hurt. Just listen.

Make sure to take on the struggle of marginalized groups as your own. Allyship is about erasing the distance between “me” and “them” in how you see the world. White people are connected to redlining, police brutality, and environmental injustice, whether they immediately see it or not.

One of the most powerful demonstrations of allyship came last summer, when white protesters moved to form a line between police and other protesters. This use of white privilege as a literal shield demonstrates the sort of awareness that allyship requires.

Then, turn education into action. Social media is a great tool to spread the word and educate others. But it means nothing if you aren’t there when something happens. Be willing to protest for the cause, to donate resources, and to vote during elections. This is how to create substantive change. Support organizations that are professionally acting in the interest of marginalized groups and in that way, show them you’re an ally.

Allyship is especially important in the workplace. Office taboos and hierarchies tend to keep marginalized people on the outside while punishing those that point out that fact.

This is most obvious during meetings. Look around the room during strategy meetings or presentations. Would the group benefit from having a viewpoint that’s different from the others? The answer is yes. Inclusion has intrinsic value, so decisions made in echo chambers are inherently worse off than those made in diverse groups.

Additionally, pay attention to how others are treated around the office. If you see something objectionable, speak out immediately, not after the fact. Many of us might be scared to go against the grain of more senior employees. But a study found that Black women and Latinas don’t believe they have allies in the workplace. Speaking up in the moment is a clear demonstration that you’re committed to understanding these issues instead of fueling them.

Allyship is also much more than this blog. Please check out Amélie Lamont’s “Guide to Allyship,” an open-sourced and simple guide to being an ally.

Whether in the office, on the street, or in the home, allyship is constant. It will be uncomfortable to engage topics of privilege and your role in discrimination. By embracing this discomfort, you show marginalized groups that you’re ready to use that privilege for good. What could be a better resolution than that?

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