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Commentaries

Check out commentaries from Everyday Democracy staff, senior associates, and guest writers on current events and our main issue areas.

There was a time I liked to think of myself as a good person. Like most “good people” if you had asked me if I was racist I would have answered with a resounding “Of course not!” But I have come to learn it’s not that simple. Growing up as a mixed brown and white woman in a mostly white suburb I was used to being on the lookout for micro-aggressions and outright hostility. What evaded me was the idea that I could be continuing the cycle of racism. “I’m brown, so obviously I’m not racist” was a favorite refrain.
It takes civic courage and skill to build a welcoming public space where people of all backgrounds and views can share honestly and listen deeply, especially in the face of so much division. It takes courage to take part in dialogue, to sit down with others, especially when messages of distrust and fear bombard us daily. And it takes courage for elected leaders at all levels to sit down with everyday people and commit to listening to them.          
When people go to prison, their absence often devastates families. But parents across the country have been galvanized by their children’s ordeals not only to advocate for their own children’s freedom, but to band together to challenge and change the policies that have taken their children away. One thing unites them all—they’re not waiting for someone else to make the changes needed to stop the destruction of mass incarceration. They’re going to do it themselves.
For the last several decades, the focus of our education system as shifted from civics to job training, and we have all paid a steep cost. Nobody will make us be citizens. But if we truly care about preserving our democracy for future generations, we need to bring back civic education.
Each of us lives with multiple identities that shape our experience of the world and how we are perceived. In my case, oppression and privilege intersect. It's not always easy to examine our privilege, but I have seen firsthand the danger of failing to see complex intersecting identities.
Since the Founding Fathers, we have not had any vertical innovation in democracy. We have run elections, voted and governed pretty much the same way for two centuries. But society has changed so much, so why hasn’t democracy changed with it?
We must find a place where we can acknowledge and uplift our differences. At the vigil New York, I saw acutely that the only way we can do this is by coming together, speaking with one another, listening to each other, and by holding space for our pain, grief, confusion, and pride.
The tragedy at Pulse, Orlando, is another reminder of the risks I, and so many of us, face just for being who we are. It is another reminder of how far we still have to go to truly achieve equality so that none of us have to live in fear. There's a lot of work to be done, but we know that by working together across divides we can truly make a difference.
The mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando has shaken the country and we are still grieving the lives that were lost. This tragedy has also had a disproportionate impact on LGBT people of color, who were targeted that night and who are too often the victims of hate crimes. This time, it was on a scale that the country couldn’t ignore.
Racism comes not only in the form of ugly words and actions, but in silence and in complacency. This is why it isn’t enough to raise our kids to simply not be racist. We have to foster anti-racism.

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Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and we believe that our tools, advice, and resources will help foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue-to-Change process can help community members take action and make their voice heard.