My heart broke as I watched Diamond Reynold’s video capturing the immediate aftermath of Philando Castile’s shooting during a routine traffic stop.
I didn’t think my heart could hurt any more until I learned that Dallas police officers had been ambushed and gunned down by a sniper.
This circle of racial violence must stop.
More than the economy, more than foreign threats, more than reproductive rights, we must address the knotted issues of bias, hate, and eagerness to harm that are destroying the very foundation of this country.
I’m tired of looking to our political leaders for action. I’m disgusted by lawmakers who refuse to meet popular opinion regarding gun laws. I’m sick of the hate and venom spewed over so many media platforms. I despair at the divide in our nation.
But what can I do?
What can one individual who wants to reach out accomplish?
Where do I go to make my voice heard?
How can a white woman like me help America repair its discordant racial divide?
The more I ponder this, the more I believe this problem must be addressed at the grassroots level. Overcoming hate is about learning to understand others, and the only way to do that is to reach out and interact. We have to talk to one another about race, religion, and personal beliefs in a civil and respectful way.
American cities can be very segregated — my hometown, Austin, is quite so — and a neighborhood block party won’t necessarily bring together diverse people. Therefore, “neighborhood” must expand to encompass a larger geographic area to include folks from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.
Conversations about Race In Austin
Fortunately, there are organizations that are already devoted to encouraging citizens to talk frankly, freely, and respectfully about race, religion, and other important topics.
Austin Justice Coalition works to address criminal justice reform on the local level. Their calendar has many activities; this month’s recommended reading is Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Join the group at the KLRU studio on July 11 for #ATXTogether, a public discussion on positive ideas regarding civil rights issues. For more information, visit the #ATXTogether Facebook event.
“Leave the grandstanding, hate speech and FCC violating language at home. Bring solutions you’d like to see or ideas your organization can offer. We need leaders and citizens to make commitments and bring #ATXTogether.”~challenge issued by KLRU, which will broadcast the discussion live on-air and online.
One Human Race is an organization through the Episcopal Church that works to provide safe discussions about race through their free series. The July session is in progress, so the Sept. 10/17/24 series is the next opportunity to join in (registration is necessary).
“The One Human Race Series meets once a week for three weeks in order to build community and common ground. OHR creates a safe environment to communicate about race using the following resources: the PBS Series “Race: The Power of An Illusion” viewed in one-hour segments, brief presentations about concepts related to the American concept of race, and group sharing with trained group leaders.”
YWCA provides individuals with materials to help them “Stand Against Racism,” so it could be helpful if you’d like to start a neighborhood discussion group.
Talking about race in Austin should include Latino voices. La Raza Roundtable is a weekly gathering open to all, where community activists come together to share information and discuss issues affecting Latinos in Austin. The group meets every Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at Resistencia Bookstore (4926 East Cesar Chavez).
Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce works to bridge gaps between Black-owned businesses and the Greater Austin business community with a goal of “greater prosperity and influence within Central Texas.” A few ways to participate include sponsoring or nominating people for #IAmBlackAustin, an interactive campaign that promotes Black life in ATX, and attending the 2016 GABC State of Black Business meeting (July 11, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. luncheon, $35) There are many other opportunities to meet through GABCC.
In the past, the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Churches of Greater Austin has held community discussions on race and related issues, notably after the Charleston shooting. I couldn’t find anything happening right now, but A.M.E. is a good spiritual resource to watch. University United Methodist Church has a group called BridgeBuilders, which is “a ministry of racial reconciliation that strives to build trust and work for justice” through a partnership of churches serving different ethnic groups. For more information, contact Heather Lee.
Join #BlackLivesMatter Austin for the July general meeting (July 12, 6 p.m., Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center, 1705 East 11th Street). Topics: debriefing on previous event; addressing disparities in education, health, economics, housing, transportation, and civics; and criminal justice reform. All are welcome.