by Anita Patel
Vice President, Racial Justice & Public Policy
YWCA of Minneapolis
Like many of you, I was rocked from my foundation earlier this month as I learned about the shootings of members of the Sikh faith in Wisconsin. Immediately the room went silent, then chaos ensued. Was it any of my relatives? How many were hurt? What could I do? It touched so close to home in so many ways. These gut-wrenching tragedies force us to connect, grieve and look for ways to create a better future for one another.
Immediately, the moving words of Valarie Kaur came to mind. When Valarie gave the keynote address at our 2009 It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race, she spent a great deal of time talking with YWCA about the beauty of the Sikh faith and the purposeful, yet senseless attacks members have faced since September 11th, 2001. In sharing her grief, she compelled us to think about what we can do when we notice bias or hate rising within us. Her statement that “it’s not that first moment that counts, but the second… it’s what you do when you become aware that a stereotype or bias has just been triggered that matters,” stays with me to this day.
We are all connected; when a tragedy strikes, the ripples are felt throughout our nation and our community. These tragedies —the large acts of hate that make the news and the covert racism people face every day — call us to action. We owe it to ourselves and our future to confront racism and bias when we see it.
Many of you across the country have made commitments to speak up and create positive change in your spheres of influence. Thank you. Thank you, also, for the steps you take each day to weave YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism into your personal and professional lives—you make a difference.
This world is changing and each of us has the power to shape that change. We will not be silent; we will stand together to eliminate racism and empower women and girls.
Anita Patel joined the YWCA of Minneapolis in 2005 and has served as vice president for racial justice and public policy since 2010. She has trained over 4,000 racial justice facilitators and presented Racial Justice and Diversity workshops for more than 15,000 participants throughout the Midwest. Anita believes in building effective partnerships and collaborations across all sectors to improve race relations. “Race and racism are incredibly relevant issues in today’s society,” shares Anita. “We must continue talking with each other in order to improve cross-cultural understanding in our community.” YWCA of Minneapolis will hold its 10th Annual It’s Time to Talk: Forums on Race event on October 17, 2012.