Taking a Stand

On Friday April 30, 2010, the YWCA launched it’s  third annual nation wide “Stand Against Racism” event. The message was a reminder that racism (defined as predjudice plus power) still exits in our communities and in the society at large.  Churches, Synagogues, Mosques, and other houses of worship were invited to participate on May 1st and 2nd.  The objective was to bring organizations together to acknowledge and to eliminate institutional racism in America.

Mission Hospital participated in the event as well. Our diversity committee showed anti-racism films from 2pm until 5pm with discussion after each film. In all fairness I feel that the turnout could have been larger for the viewings. Yet I was proud to witness employees risking being uncomfortable and vulnerable while expressing their views on the topic of race in America and even more specifically talking about race relations right here in Asheville.  This coupled by the fact that many of the employees who called to say they could not make time to view  the films practically demanded to wear buttons with the words Racism Hurts Everybody, which were supplied by the YWCA. In fact I am still receiving request for buttons. I was really pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response.

Why was I surprised? Because this is hard work. As anyone can attest to who is involved with any type of justice work, at times it’s the little victories that count. There is still much resistance and backlash to any type of anti-racism or diversity work in American institutions. And yet The City of Asheville had the 2nd largest number of participating organizations in the nation, with 75 organizations taking a stand against racism. That’s right. Right here in  little ole’ Asheville. The town I’ve heard described as Berkley (as in California) surrounded by Mayberry, surrounded by Jesse Helms.  Asheville ,North Carolina came in 2nd only to Hartford, Conneticut who had 90 organizations participate, and a fairly large African American population to boot.

Surprised? I was surprised when Obama received 60% of the “white vote” to become president of this country. Sometimes being “surprised” is just another way of saying I was given more reason to be hopeful. It certainly gives me more energy to do the work I do as a diversity officer here at Mission Hospital. Asheville took a stand against racism. …We’ll maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised afterall.

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