Almost like clockwork, a new tirade emits from Washington that is even more hateful than the one before. These eruptions are like earthquakes – they’re impossible to predict exactly, but we all know that they’re going to happen sooner or later, and they will leave a lot of rubble in their wake. The aftershocks are just as destructive, if not more so – last week, we saw mobs of people mirroring back the same hateful behavior, having been given permission from the highest office in the country to reveal their worst selves.
When these moments occur, many of us feel that we must raise our own voices to reject hatred, and to remind the world that this is not acceptable, and that we will not be bullied. Hateful racist speech must be called out for what it is.
It’s a start, and it’s an essential start, but it’s just a start.
Those of us living in the Bay Area may feel like we’re looking through a funhouse mirror at a version of America that doesn’t remotely reflect our values. But in reality, this is not a distant battlefront to only be engaged in through social media and national elections.
We need to understand that in the San Francisco Bay Area, in our extremely progressive enclave, we have plenty of our own work to do.
Right here at home we have appalling levels of displacement, poverty, homelessness and incarceration – all of which are divided along racial lines. We have a deeply troubling number of people who have no permanent housing, but attempts to provide even temporary shelter are met by angry protests. I could go on.
How is it that we have stopped seeing each other? And what can we do about it?
The first step is to acknowledge that while we may not see the same capital-R-racism that exists in other parts of the country, we still need to address racial equity in our own backyard. Here in the Bay Area, white workers make 35 percent more in median earnings compared to black workers, and more than double the median earnings of Latinx workers. Black households are also twice as likely as white households to live in neighborhoods that are at risk of gentrification.
The next step is to roll up our sleeves and do something about it.
I have always been an optimist. I wake up every morning truly believing that tomorrow will be better than yesterday. And believe it or not, I think that history would support that optimism. But I’m also not naïve. At times like these, when people can feel powerless to respond to a president who defies almost every norm for human decency, there’s so much we can do to demonstrate that we are better than that – that that’s not who we are.
We can begin at our own doorstep. We can begin by doing everything we can to make sure that all Bay Area residents have a good job with wages and benefits that enable them to care for their families, that they can live in communities reflecting their culture and identity, and that they have a strong political voice that allows them to help shape the future of our region. We can push back against the toxic rhetoric that is spewing from Washington by being part of a solution that builds a community where we are all valued.
We can show Washington, the rest of the world, and indeed ourselves that a culture that includes all people is happier, healthier, and more productive than one that attempts to divide. That’s more than just a start.