A Statement in solidarity with Buffalo, NY
from the Staff and Board
of Rhode Island for Community & Justice
For too long, racial hatred has been a monster lurking at our door. Over 400 years of history, hatred and violence have been directed toward America's Black communities.
For too long, the response to racially motivated shootings and mass murders has been thoughts and prayers, not action.
For too long, mental illness has been used to excuse radicalized hatred. Radicalized hatred is an illness of the heart; it is taught, and learned.
For too long, many white people have turned their face away. Some don't know what to do. Some fear to take a stand. Some are indifferent. Some find excuses for hatred. And some condone conspiracy and replacement theories and support racist agendas.
It is long past time to confront racial hatred.
This must STOP.
The murderous, racially motivated attack in Buffalo NY stirred up complex emotions in our Rhode Island for Community and Justice family. Our mission dedicates us to fight bias, bigotry and racism by building understanding.
Today we feel:
· ANGER that again and again in a country that espouses democracy and equality, Black communities are targeted for hatred and death.
· EXHAUSTION from recurrent hate, bias and violence, ranging from daily humiliations like being followed in stores to the horror that unfolded in Buffalo.
· BITTERNESS as we watch white supremacists and extremist paramilitary groups espousing and acting on racist replacement theory and realize our government does not even label such dangerous behavior as domestic terrorism. Yet its intent is to terrorize Black, Jewish, Asian, Immigrant, LGBTQ+ and Trans communities.
· ALARM. Of course we feel fear. We are alarmed at the way racism is becoming almost normalized in some circles. Despite our best efforts, we know that this event is not isolated and can happen here in our state.
The rise of extremist right groups across the country is unprecedented in recent times. Radicalization accelerated by social media is unprecedented. Its impact is unprecedented - Buffalo is the 198th mass shooting in 2022.
Change will take Action.
Every person can act, reaching out to make change in your own neighborhoods, schools and houses of worship, where you work, play and live. Where there is social condemnation of racial hatred and support for inclusion, change is possible.
There are many ways to take action. What you choose to do is as individual as you are. What is essential is that you do something.
Talk about Buffalo with those close to you.
If you are white, take a clear stand in opposition to racial hatred. Don't say "I'm not racist", say "I will not condone racism". Then call it out when you see or hear it from family and friends. For too long, we have given a pass to questionable comments, jokes, actions by people in our own networks. Make that stop.
For communities of color, these events can bring despair and loss of hope. Seek a community of support and places of healing and hope.
If you have children (or teach them), talk with your children. Help them feel safe and heard, help them to see a community where all belong.
Look at institutions you are involved with. Are you a member of a house of worship? Do you have a child in school? What clubs, sports groups, or social media forums are you involved in? Talk with them.
Where are you employed? Institutions and businesses are part of your community. What do they need to do to become inclusive? Talk with them.
Vote, and make sure you consider how candidates will serve all communities.
Examine the power you hold. Where can you influence change in the broader community? Can you affect a business, school, law or policy? Use every point of leverage you have to build the safe, welcoming world that you want to live in.
Change will take Resources.
Organizations in the community that stand against racism are mostly small and understaffed. Together, advocacy groups including RICJ do amazing work that has helped make Rhode Island the relatively accepting and welcoming state we cherish. These community organizations can help you understand how to talk through the difficult issues around racism and how to build inclusive communities.
With a few dedicated activists, we fight well-funded extremist groups and social media that has radicalized whole communities. What we need is a force of thousands.
YOU are that force for good.
You become that force of thousands, through the actions that you take in your own life to fight racial hatred, and your support for the cause. Each of us is a catalyst for positive change, one part of building a better state, nation, and world.
Honor and remember the lives lost in Buffalo: Celestine Chaney, Roberta Drury, Andre Mackniel, Katherine Massey, Margus Morrison, Deacon Heyward Patterson, Aaron Salter, Geraldine Talley, Ruth Whitfield, Pearl Young. In positive action, we can honor their lives, and we can find hope.
Every person has an important role to play.
Every single action you take matters.
We are stronger when we act together.
We never give up.
We can affect our future.