What Can We Change in 2017?

‘Welcome 2017 and good riddance to 2016’ has been a common refrain over the last few weeks. While we always hold out hope for the future, we’re also cautious. We can’t wish away all that we witnessed and experienced over the last year. We heard racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, anti-Muslim sentiments, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia out loud and often. We heard it from people running for office, we heard it from their supporters, and we heard it from the president-elect. We witnessed serious challenges to voting rights, hate crimes, continued police shootings of unarmed black men, and mass murders. And now we hear regular potential threats to civil liberties under the new administration.

The questioning title of Dr. King’s 1967 book Where Do We Go from Here? Chaos or Community? is as well-suited to this moment as then. In it he wrote that the challenge after the passage of both the voting and civil rights acts would be to gain equity in education, jobs, wages, and housing—especially, as he anticipated, during “a new phase of white resistance.” And yet he offers hope in the vision of the ‘Beloved Community’ in which an ‘all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood’ would replace bigotry and racism.

How do we create change—especially given that we are in a period of rising residential segregation in which the likelihood of cross-racial and cross-cultural conversation and understanding is diminished, and at a time in which people retreat into media echo-chambers? It is increasingly incumbent upon all of us who have committed to integration and inclusion to act in accordance with our beliefs: speak up against racism and bias; educate ourselves; engage in productive discussions with family, neighbors, co-workers, and community leaders; take actions like protests, policy advocacy, and support of justice organizations.

At the Coalition on Race, we work hard at the local level to engage people in thoughtful, safe dialogue and in learning workshops about race. We try to provide the means for people to build authentic and hopefully lasting relationships across racial and cultural barriers. And we advocate for representative leadership and attention to policies and practices that support equity for all members of our community.

In 2017, our work includes all of these types of efforts: Conversations on Race, Coffee House Discussions, a workshop series called ‘Talking to Children about Race,’ XRootsFest, our annual multi-cultural festival, the Civic Engagement Institute, attention to the demographics and residential patterns of our towns, and more. We hope you will join us.

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