Yesterday I attended an inspiring rally, in response to an anonymous vandal spray-painting swastikas in front of a Lakewood home last week. Hundreds joined to say “hate has no home here.” The turnout and the positive energy were great. But I heard many people ask what we’re going to do now. Our state senator Mike Skindell spoke for a lot of us, I think, when he wrote afterward: “The rally is the easy part… the real question is ‘what happens Monday?’”
A few thoughts.
At the national level:
Our executive branch still employs Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka, in addition to people who have no apparent problem with pro-hate campaigners. Their presence in the White House is just as inappropriate as Steve Bannon’s was.
Meanwhile, the enabling of white supremacists’ agenda goes beyond the White House. As former Senator Russ Feingold has written, “Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.” Members of Congress who claim that this isn’t their intent need to support a new Voting Rights Act. Republican Jim Sensenbrenner has called for this; his colleagues should be encouraged to follow.
Congress can also take important steps by holding new hearings on white supremacist groups, and by restoring canceled funding to combat radicalization and recruitment.
At the state level:
While a new VRA is definitely appropriate, many of the policies which Feingold identified are being instituted at the state level, including here in Ohio. Our Secretary of State has fought to purge voters and restrict voting times. (Indiana provides an extreme example of why this matters.) Ohio’s gerrymandering is some of the worst in the nation, and the reform to statehouse redistricting passed in 2015 needs to be matched for congressional redistricting. Please make sure you sign a petition to place this measure on next year’s ballot (or better yet volunteer for the Fair Districts campaign).
With buying power:
While Congress & other elected officials should hear from all of us, about steps they can take, there are things we can do on our own. Last week, many major companies and other organizations were persuaded to walk away from Trump administration committees, in explicit condemnation of the president’s appalling comments on Charlottesville. They were persuaded by e-mails, calls, and social media posts letting them know that complicity with hate is toxic for their brand.
This type of activism can accomplish more. The Sleeping Giants have persuaded many advertisers to flee Steve Bannon’s Breitbart News, for example; you can help them pressure the remaining advertisers including the big one, Amazon. Check out Shannon Coulter’s grabyourwallet.org, and Sleeping Giants.
On the local level:
Yesterday’s rally reminded us that Lakewood has a history of support for equality—and another history that includes bigotry and intolerance, like that described by Rabbi Enid Lader. I have heard from other older residents that our community has more stories like hers, rarely discussed yet not really that far in the past. It’s time to confront these in the open. You can contact me if you like; a friend of mine is working on collecting some of this record.
We also need to confront current policies. I believe that some of Lakewood’s current policies are discriminatory, whatever the intent, and certainly not welcoming for all. We can discuss this respectfully, but we need to have discussions, including on city council. We can also be more welcoming and inclusive in many ways, from big policies like sanctuary laws, to small ones like personally inviting people outside of our familiar social circle to get more involved in leadership roles.
Action Together Lakewood Area, who organized Sunday’s rally, also invited any and everyone to attend their next meeting on September 10 at Lakewood Public Library. (You don’t even have to be a Lakewood resident!) Drop in to get ideas, and bring your own.