The following is a letter to the editor, published here as opinion. The opinions expressed in this letter are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the Editor:
We are three women of color who have lived in Mendocino County for a long time. We have a strong sense of belonging and a deep connection to this place we call home.
Last fall we presented and participated in a “Speak Up!” workshop in Round Valley, to learn how to take a stand against everyday bigotry. The group of 13 women and men shared stories of recent encounters in Mendocino County, and attempted to re-write these stories using simple, direct, and non-violent responses. The workbook, “Six Steps to Speaking Up Against Everyday Bigotry,” published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, guided our discussion. We learned that all parties concerned are hurt by bigotry: the targets, the perpetrators, and the witnesses. We learned to look at our own biases.
Here are some of the stories that were shared:
- “A” went grocery shopping during a peak time when the store was very crowded. People needed to form a line to check out, and at the same time leave a space for other shoppers to pass through. A’s turn was next, but as she stepped forward, another person appeared, looked directly at A, and then quickly placed herself in front of A.
- “B’s” 14-year old daughter and a some schoolmates plus one adult went shopping at a big discount store. A senior-aged couple passed by the group and said softly yet clearly enough for all of them to hear, “F___ing foreigners!”
- “C” went to a restaurant-lounge to hear a musical performance. One of the musicians used a derogatory term to describe an ethnic group while introducing his song.
In all of the above stories, the perpetrators were white people and the targets were people of color. The stories range from being questionably bigoted to undeniably anti-“foreigner,” which is the reason we are writing. We want to raise awareness to the general public, that the above types of stories are everyday occurrences, and are on the rise. None of the stories include bigotry directed at people because of their gender identification, sexual orientation, size, ability, line of work, religion, or political party membership, but these stories exist, too.
We know it’s difficult to speak up, and still we ask you to do so–in public, in the workplace, in schools, and with your friends, families, and neighbors. Here’s how: be ready, identify the behavior, appeal to principles, set limits, find an ally, and be vigilant. It takes lots of practice, and you may fumble around for the right words, but to remain silent is to be complaisant.
The preceding was an opinion column, to be construed as the personal opinions of the author, not as fact, nor as the opinions of this publication. Furthermore, it was not edited for punctuation or spelling, all errors are those of the author. It was likewise not fact-checked. However, we reserve the right to fact-check opinion pieces and letters to the editor, run in this publication, and to annotate such pieces with fact-checking.