“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments, leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to one certain type of people.”
—Former U.S. President Barack Obama

In the wake of the three shootings in 9 days that included double mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in a 36-hour period last weekend, we are once again mourning the loss of innocent lives to senseless acts of gun violence. Thirty-four people—ranging in age from 6 to 90 years old—woke up that morning with no idea that they would not see another one. Dozens of families were torn apart by the shock and brutality of the murders and injuries, and the majority of us are demanding action. Again.

The outrage across the country this time is louder, deeper, and more intentional. The murderer in El Paso specifically targeted Latino immigrants whom the President calls “invaders.” And on Wednesday, 600 individuals were rounded up in Mississippi by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and ripped from their families to face deportation under the orders of the White House. Citizens are outraged that the Republican party will not rebuke this president for his racist rhetoric and practice of ripping families apart. Nor will they allow any legislation to move forward that would help curb gun violence. Instead, mouthpieces for the Republican party are blaming video games and mental health as the root cause of the gun killings. If these murders had been committed by anyone other than White males, the cries from the Republicans would look much different than thoughts and prayers. U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar (D-TX) summed it up succinctly when she said “We have a gun epidemic. We also have a hate epidemic.”

How did this country—built on the backs of people from all races, religions, cultures, and backgrounds—get this far off track and what can we do to rise up and correct our course? While tragedies like the Dayton, El Paso, and Gilroy shootings—along with all of the others in their wake—and the continued practice of separating families might leave us feeling helpless, we must not give up on demanding and taking action. The unity we are feeling at the local level is strong on the West Side but it needs to grow. And there is more action to be taken. Strengthen your resolve and move forward.

Here are some ways to do that NOW (details about each opportunity are included in this newsletter):

  • Become a Voter Registration Agent. Trainings are available throughout the city to help register and update voter registration rolls.
  • Be an Upstander by calling out racism and hate when you see it. At our July 24 WSD meeting, we featured the President and Board members of the New Mexico Holocaust and Intolerance Museum who urged us to stand up to hate.
  • Educate yourself about the issues. At our August 28 WSD meeting, find out why we need to keep our judiciary independent.
  • Volunteer to register voters at the Westside Summerfest on August 17.
  • We cannot give up. Not now. Not ever. 2020 is coming.

With gratitude,

Ellen Coplen, Chair