It is our collective responsibility to call out and dismantle injustice and inequity in our fractured system when we see it. Rubicon Programs remains committed to acting on our responsibility to represent the people we serve and fight for their interests – and what we agree is basic human decency.
I would like to share with you my personal experience and reflections on this past weekend’s blatant show of armed Nazism, white supremacy and unfettered fascism in Charlottesville, and the death and violence that followed. Frankly, I was horrified and angry.
Last night’s vigils sprang up organically throughout the country, with at least a few right here in the East Bay. Personally, I attended a gathering in Latham Square in Oakland. So many thoughts ran through my mind.
People from the ages of 15 to 90 spoke from the heart, and many families brought their young children. I found high school age speakers to be especially eloquent, expressing both their resolve to be united against hate wherever they see it, and also their hope for the future.
On the other end of the age continuum, someone who attended a vigil in El Cerrito told me about a 93-year-old man who spoke. The man said that he had fought at Iwo Jima, and never thought he would still be struggling against fascism more than 70 years later. He didn’t want to die with the struggle still continuing.
My friend made a sign, “400,000 US military died fighting fascism during World War II. Never again.”
White supremacy is a disease, as well as a system, and it remains a threat.
I then wondered if this immediate and widespread outpouring of anger, grief and dismay by white people was, in part, due to the fact that a white life was lost. Would the national response have been the same if Heather Heyer were black or brown?
Toward the end of the vigil, Oscar Grant’s uncle spoke, introducing himself as Uncle Bobby, and asked how many of us at the vigil had been there eight years before, when his unarmed nephew was shot dead by a BART police officer.
I was one of those who was not. Only about a quarter of the crowd raised their hands.
Nonetheless, he found comfort in this, and did not express bitterness. He took this as a sign of advancement. The number of people who are aware of the deep, gnarled roots of systemic racism in America has multiplied exponentially. People are talking about it and acting to end it.
Unfortunately, our nation still has a ways to go. Hundreds of white men are still marching with swastikas on their arms and torches in their hands. Our President remains silent. And more complicated issues like poverty and implicit bias remain ever-present.
We should hold onto Uncle Bobby’s words and embrace his message of hope.
The nation is awakening. Let’s shine a light on injustice and fight for change one heart and mind at a time.