Like many of the cliche sayings that come about when watching old 80's movies about how advanced the world of the 2000's should be, shouldn't we be better than this already? Now already almost two decades into the 2000's, we seem to be going backwards in our fight against hate, racism, sexism, and all the prejudice that makes our work as community stewards that much harder. Why is this happening?
It's easy to point a finger at a single culprit if you want to see it that way. According to the FBI Hate crimes rose 78% between 2013 and 2017 in Washington state, according to a new study that shows this state saw the nation’s ninth-largest rise in bias crime during that time period. That's quite the uptick in bias crime over the last few years, but let's not pretend it wasn't on the rise before this last election. It may have come to the fore front just recently but let's explore the recent statistics of our vulnerable communities and explain how this disturbing trend of how Americans, and more importantly Washingtonians, treating each other with such racial bias has polarized so many citizens.
Now it's not just Washington State suffering from these ills, in fact the entire nation is working on these issues. Hate crimes are up 22% on a national level, with 8,500 cases reported to police between 2013 and 2017. Even our everyday lives have been infiltrated with conflict. Social media seems to be a hot bed of so many different kinds of social activity it was only a matter of time before hate groups, instigators, and place to conduct clandestine operations. It's no surprise that the same study which our statistics have been gathered from goes on to suggest that, “social media and online communities are helping promote hatred and often prove to be that final spark to violence.”
So why is it that now we are more connected with one another more than any other time in human history, but still can't have a conversation on race relations when it's almost 2020?
A short and hard answer to swallow for this is, broken systems that pollute our communities. I'm not talking about your pipe's and waterways, I'm talking support systems for at risk children, mental health counseling for the economically challenged, the programs that need to exist, so kids can have free dental access to improve their health and the health of our young communities. It's a very cliche line but we are only as strong as our weakest link, and a chain with only a few good links is doing no one any use. Think of this chain as the one that pulls your community up to the rest in the path to better communities. When we can support our children and make sure they have food in their stomachs, access to quality education programs, and a roof over their heads regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, economic stature we gain a strong link. When we can ensure that families who work day and night and still can't make ends meet will still have access to assistance to keep a roof over their heads, continue to earn their way with dignity and respect in their community, and not wonder if an eviction notice is coming for you and your family, we gain yet another stong link. When we accomplish this and many other community building functions we can become a chain of strong links, and we can effectively pull the weight to bigger and better avenues of success for our community, TOGETHER.
How does this tie in with race relations? When we all look out for each other, the color of our skin will not define us, but our sense of community and making sure everyone has the same chance to strive for more. Diverse ecosystems flourish because of that diversity, moving along complex systems that MUST work hand in hand to ensure the sustainability and survival of that ecosystem. Our communities must work in the same way to end the idea of scarce commuinty resources, the us vs them mentality, and the idea the color of our skin or who we choose to love or who we choose to be makes us any less deserving of basic rights, access to food and shelter, and the right to live a healthy prosperous life and provide for our families the same way our parents tried their best to provide great lives for ourselves. Let us not use the chains of oppression to hold our communities down, but instead build our strong chain of community partners and pull ourselves into the 2020's and beyond!
For more information and the sourcing for statistics check out this article from the SeattleTimes.com: