Statement by Patina Park, Executive Director.
August 14, 2017
This past weekend the country witnessed the intensity of hate and violence provoked by the gathering of white supremacists and nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, for the “Unite the Right” Rally. Many of us watched it unfold on the news, in social media, and with live video feeds. People from across the country who align themselves against white supremacy and racism expressed shock, anger, disbelief, and feelings of hopelessness over what they witnessed. Though the rally was marketed as a protest against removing a statute of General Lee from a public park, many of the participants came armed with sticks, knives, shields, assault rifles and law enforcement-level body armor, clearly as a means of intimidation and force against those who would come to stand against their racism and white supremacy.
Our hearts are with the family and friends of Heather Heyer, who was killed by a violent act, and Officers Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, who were killed when their helicopter crashed while assisting law enforcement activities during the rally. We continue to pray for those who were physically injured and for those who were emotionally and spiritually harmed.
We respect the bravery of those who came from across the country to stand in solidarity and placed their lives in the direct line of vicious physical and verbal abuse.
We were moved by the continued show of solidarity against hate and racism that sprung up in cities across the country throughout the weekend and which continue.
But we ask those who were surprised that this level of racism continues to exist in this country to take a hard look at the racism that exists more covertly throughout the country, especially in your own world. As a Native American agency that works with our urban community, we see evidence of racism everywhere in the disparities that exist in all the areas we work to overcome. We see it in regard to housing, access to healthy, affordable food, education and graduation rates, child protection involvement, arrests and sentencing, employment, physical and emotional health, cancer rates, heart disease, sexual assault and exploitation, domestic violence, the list goes on and on. We see it in systemic responses which create further barriers for families to access services. We experience it in the standards used which encapsulate a white, middle-class model as the ideal for outcomes. We read it in the articles and hear it in commentary around entitlement and “welfare abuse” to justify cutting services and implying that our communities somehow earned or deserve their poverty and struggles.
The hateful, violent racism we all saw in Charlottesville was loud, vile, and reprehensible. However, the quiet, insidious racism and microaggressions that go on every day and which go unseen and perpetuated unknowingly by many non-POC individuals are just as violent to our communities. We need our allies to stand with us. We need our allies to listen to us. We need our allies to see racism, even when there aren’t Facebook live feeds.