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Standing Up – And Acting Up – For Racial Justice

More than 40,000 marching in Boston this past weekend to speak out against racism and white supremacy. Americans of all backgrounds condemning President Trump’s refusal to unequivocally denounce Neo Nazis, the KKK and white supremacists. Protests and demonstrations happening around the country—from New Orleans to Atlanta to the Bay Area—to stand up to hate and bigotry.

Elie Wiesel said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

In the aftermath of Charlottesville, two things are clear. One, we must put to rest any idea that we are living in a “post racial” America. Indeed, even before white supremacists marched in Charlottesville waving confederate flags and disgustingly chanting “white power” and the Nazi slogan “blood and soil,” we long have known that white supremacy is deeply interwoven into so many of our systems, from education to health to criminal justice, serving as an insurmountable barrier to opportunity and equity for so many of our communities.

Two, the time to be equivocal or to stay silent has long since passed, and it is heartening to see so many people, including white people, answering the call to step up and speak out. My grandparents fled the Nazi advance in Europe. Even a hint of resurgence of such evil must be unequivocally denounced. There are never two sides when it comes to Nazism. There are never two sides to white supremacism, bigotry, and racial and religious hatred, intolerance and violence.

But the truth is, speaking up is essential but not sufficient. Condemning bigotry, racism, hate, anti-Semitism and violence better be a no-brainer. To build real equity for all of our communities, we have to go much further and advance a dynamic and bold agenda to end oppression and racism. As we express moral outrage at extremists, we must also express that outrage equally at the systemic and pervasive inequities that oppress people of color every day. As we remove monuments to slavery and the confederacy, we must also advocate against the continuing legacy of slavery and racism that is still deeply embedded in and shapes our systems. We must bring down state violence; the racialized criminal justice system; hugely disproportionate school suspensions and expulsions of children; daily exploitation and government-led terror campaigns against immigrants; dire poverty and economic injustice; continued discrimination in employment, housing and health access; voter suppression targeting people of color, and so much more.

For those of us in philanthropy and for anyone able to give, we can double down on funding leaders of color with transformative and bold visions for change, and support them not just for today’s fight but for the long haul. We all must continue to take sides by speaking up and taking action, bringing our bodies to nonviolent protest, using our vote, and putting our money where our mouths are. We must make sure that the struggle for racial justice, in this moment and beyond, becomes the center of the universe.

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