We’re Going to Need You
by Patrice O'Neill, Not In Our Town Executive Producer
Updated November 9, 2016
The 2016 Election is over and those of us who are committed to standing up to hate and intolerance are going to be needed more than ever.
How will our children remember this election season, and what can we do in its aftermath to support them? How will we address the toxic brew of bigotry that is poisoning the atmosphere in our civic culture?
The Election has been decided, but we will still have to face the surge of hate speech and vitriol that has been unleashed. Hundreds of new hate groups have surfaced, hate speech is rampant on the Internet including vicious targeting of Jewish journalists, attacks on Muslims are higher than they have been since before 9/11, and Latino children are taunted by their peers with chants like “Build a Wall.” Black moms and dads are worried that their sons will be targeted by police, while children of police officers worry that their moms and dads won’t come home.
A recent column by a Cornell psychology professor "How Kids Learn Prejudice," reminds us that our children are like sponges. They pick up and mimic the intolerance and bullying they see and hear in the media, at home, in the community and at school.
We are in a perilous moment, but giving into cynicism will only make the situation worse. Right now, we have to look beyond the darkness and see that fixing this is possible.
Your actions can help provide solutions for all of us, and cut through the cynicism that many are feeling at this moment.
Our towns and our cities are still places where people can get along and build a culture of respect and shared values.
Every day we hear uplifting stories from leaders and community activists in the Not In Our Town movement across the country who are working to tackle the intolerance and divisions that seem so intractable on a national level. These communities show us that local action can help guide us through this rocky road.
There are Mayors, city leaders and community members that find ways to express core values of inclusion, and encourage everyone to participate respectfully in civic events.
Neighbors who will stand with neighbors when they are under attack.
Teachers who talk to their classrooms about the fear students have who are targeted by bigotry, and provide the eye opening tools young people need, through history, literature and art to stand up for themselves and others.
Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Sikh Faith leaders who are reaching out to each other and their congregations to build understanding.
Business leaders who are creating opportunities for building healthy diverse cultures at work.
Police and law enforcement leaders, getting out of their cars and into neighborhoods, outside of a crime fighting situation. They are working to address the implicit bias that all of us have, and find ways to use de-escalation before deadly force.
Journalists, who are digging deeper to find out what’s making Americans so angry and distrustful. They surface the stories of people who are finding solutions to the intolerance and divisions that keep us from fixing things.
Students and young people are leading their schools and their peers as they stand up to bullying and stand for civil rights and equity. We need their leadership more than ever.
In her book called Hope In The Dark, Bay Area writer Rebecca Solnit reminds us of what’s possible as she quotes one of San Francisco’s most revered leaders. “‘You gotta give them hope,’ said Harvey Milk, and then he did exactly that,” she writes.
All of you who want to embrace hope and change over despair; we’re going to need you now.
Please share your stories and actions with us so we can spread them to communities across the country. firstname.lastname@example.org