As I sat down to share my thoughts on paper, it was tough to decide what to say about the recent shooting deaths of two black men at the hands of police in Minnesota and Louisiana and the retaliatory killings of five police officers in Texas.
As a black woman, I experience racism and am personally impacted by it every day. As with most people, the past weeks have been heartbreaking and frustrating for me.
I feel more and more that our nation is fracturing; old wounds are getting deeper and new ones are forming. I know there are no simple solutions. If there were, we wouldn’t continue to struggle with issues we have been trying to solve for centuries. Many people including myself are tired of talk and want action.
In the words of Linda Sarsour, the Arab-American civil-rights activist: “outrage without action” changes nothing. The issues we face cannot be legislated or regulated away. We need action beyond rallies, marches and conversations. We need action beyond implementing policies. We need action that changes hearts and minds because until we are able to do that, we will never attain our goal of true peace.
Our community and nation have taken a conversation about equity, race and justice and turned it into a battle of “for us” and “against us.” We are constantly being forced to take sides: Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter.
This battle only increases the gap between us, and leads to more misunderstanding and distrust, and so the cycle continues. The battle is not us vs. them. The battle we need to fight is ridding our communities and hearts of hate, bias and prejudice.
When a local event was scheduled last week in memory of the black shooting victims in St. Paul and Baton Rouge, I was initially uncomfortable with it being held somewhere other than one of Tacoma’s black churches. Then I took a step back to reflect. I examined why I felt that way, and it forced me to acknowledge that we all have some level of bias.
The key is to recognize it and work to push ourselves far beyond it. Most people would like to think they’re mostly fair-minded, but we short-change ourselves when we refuse to consider that we may have latent prejudices. Our efforts not to be considered bigoted have shut down real conversations around race and self-awareness.
Let’s be willing to put ourselves into uncomfortable places, such as a different congregation, neighborhood or group of friends.
Challenging times can be overwhelming and we may be tempted to throw up our hands in disgust and give up. Let us not give up or give in. Let’s continue to believe that what binds us together is a force stronger than that which threatens to tear us apart.
We often have more in common than we think. We must take the time to get to know one another on a personal level and remember that we all have families, we all have dreams, and we all are humans who want to see Tacoma strong.
Let’s not just be outraged together but take action. Together there is healing of hearts and minds. Together there is growth. Together is how our community will truly become better.
Victoria Woodards is a Tacoma city councilwoman and president/CEO of the Tacoma Urban League.