This week, I sent the below email to the team at San Diego Organizing Project — the same week of the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia. We had just spent 1.5 hours of staff meeting discussing the role people who are white have in acknowledging their privilege – and how little it’s done. From there, the conversation turned into how we would host a press conference in two days where interfaith leaders would unite and denounce racism and white supremacy in San Diego County.
The email I sent read:
I want to express two sentiments I’ve been feeling for a long time, and especially after our staff meeting today: Gratitude and awareness.
In my work the past five years with organizations dedicated to social and environmental justice, and especially recently given the outrageous events of this presidency, it’s never been more apparent that I am a privileged white person. So is a lot of Mixte.
This has been on my mind for a long time, but most apparently since November. After going to a messaging training on community displacement earlier this year with Environmental Health Coalition, the wheels were going a million miles per hour over two questions:
- What is my role in fighting for social justice?
- How can I contribute appropriately?
I know I’ll never fully understand or be able to truly relate to the issues that SDOP works on, the stories of people impacted and the national moments of blatant racism such as we talked about today because of my privilege.
And I will never pretend to.
I’m honored and humbled to work with you, and I am touched by everything that was shared today and each of your passion and faith. Thank you for giving Mixte the opportunity to contribute to such a meaningful time in history, and letting us stand with you in a way that is right, and in a way that elevates the voices that need the most elevation.
I just wanted to share.
PS – I don’t know Richard’s best email!
The response I got from the team overwhelmed me.
Every staff person responded (except Richard, because I really didn’t have his email) with kindness, empathy and appreciation that I took the time to share what was so heartfelt and personal to me. In a way, we overcame some internal and unspoken barriers or perhaps underlying hesitations the team felt about working in communities of color but having two PR people who are caucasian. Afterward, I felt heard, loved and more united than ever before.
Oh, and ready to fight.
So, we planned the press conference.
Almost every TV station in San Diego (English and Spanish), multiple print journalists and photographers from major local papers joined us at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church near Balboa Park to listen as leaders from various faiths and of various skin colors called on San Diego to stand up against white supremacy, denounce racism and promote the love of all people. They also called on local law enforcement to develop a public safety plan in the case of extremist and hateful activity in San Diego.
Miranda and I watched as leader after leader after leader took the podium in front of cameras on a sunny San Diego Friday to refuse intolerance of other human beings purely because of their skin color, with the hope of inspiring white people to stand in solidarity for equality and acknowledge white privilege, putting it into action to end white supremacy in San Diego. Watch more here.
It goes without saying we got emotional and felt extremely proud.
As the most popular tweet that has ever been posted to Twitter reads:
Our work moves us.
We use our skills every day — and more than ever lately — to demand a better world for all people in the face of chaos and hate. We stand unwaveringly by the moral principles of justice and equality and human rights. We see the potential to build a world where all people have enough.
Earlier this year I had the honor of making memories with Dolores Huerta at the Environmental Health Coalition annual awards celebration — one of the greatest social justice visionaries and the counterpart to Cesar Chavez. Standing with her in a photo booth with goofy props gave me a rush of butterflies and left me in awe of the human beings in the world who haven’t given up this critical fight.
I stand by what I said in my email to San Diego Organizing Project.
I will never fully understand or truly relate to certain issues and stories. I will never pretend to. But I will always fight for justice and equality with every tool I have, and lift up the voices of those who need to be heard.