By Robin Perlas | July 11, 2016
Training Coordinator, ETR
Last week will go down as one of the bloodiest in US history. In the few days following our nation’s Independence Day holiday weekend, racially-charged gun violence took the lives of a number of civilians as well as five police officers. Investigations are ongoing and many facts remain to be uncovered. What we do know is that a lot of people are in mourning, and our country is once again divided at its core.
I’m not writing to share the bloody details of these recent events. There has been enough coverage in news reports and videos on social media to make any heart succumb to grief. I’m not even here to talk about the abundance of scholarly research and governmental investigative reports that clearly indicate there are very real systemic inequalities in US society based on race and socioeconomic status, especially when it comes to law enforcement and police brutality. These are facts that cannot be disputed.
My purpose in writing this post is to share the one thing that remains absolutely clear to me during all this mayhem and confusion: regardless if we’re black, white, brown or blue, we all want our lives to matter.
We all have basic needs. Food, clothing, shelter and safety should be non-negotiables for every citizen and resident of any nation. However, time and again we are faced with the issue of how to overcome the disparities of our society and ensure everyone has equal access to the rights and privileges extended by our Constitution.
There are many opinions on these matters. What feels certain for me when this type of violence unfolds over and over again is the fact that all lives cannot matter when certain groups are still being marginalized by the very infrastructure intended to govern and protect us. These are longstanding inequities. The time for real change is long overdue.
So where do we go from here? How can we heal as a country and help bring justice to the fallen? These answers are not clear. However, one positive outcome of all this pain is that it is spurring people into action. During times of great strife, people are able to overcome the most incredible obstacles. I think of the Haitian Revolution in the 1700s. I think of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Humans are adaptable and capable beings when it comes to political and social hardships. This makes me hopeful that our current crisis, too, shall be overcome and conquered.
One of the things that informs my thinking on these matters is my experience working here at ETR. We are a nonprofit public health education organization that employs proven methods to engage individuals, families and communities in eliminating health and educational inequities, managing risk and making optimal health choices. In the work of my colleagues, I see a sense that public safety and inclusivity are key in building a strong foundation for healthy living. People need to feel valued and significant in order to function successfully in society. Tapping into this need is one way to achieve the transformative change in individuals, families and communities that ETR’s mission describes.
Diversity and inclusivity are things ETR is working on within the agency. At present, the majority of ETR’s employees are female and white. The staff here are continuously finding ways to identify, examine and overcome the challenges this can present.
ETR provides science-based solutions to the public with our services. We align our medically accurate, evidence-based programs with trauma-informed strategies and inclusive language. We train educators according to best practices in professional development to ensure they can implement any curriculum with fidelity and adapt lessons for any special population with confidence. We engage in examining unconscious bias and offer capacity-building services to organizations looking to unlearn these systemic hindrances. We spearhead and partner on initiatives to increase gender and racial diversity in STEM fields, in hopes of eventually breaking down institutionalized barriers to receiving education.
These are steps that are truly making a difference. I believe it is actions such as these that will help our country elevate itself to a new level of greatness—one we have never even imagined. We just have to give it a chance.
How do we move this agenda forward? We cannot do it alone. A successful change in personal habits or lifestyle has to come from within an individual in order to manifest completely. However, a successful change in our social dynamics about race and difference has to happen throughout our society as a whole.
We need to welcome everyone who is committed to fighting the good fight against discrimination, oppression and inequality. We need to unite in the shared belief that everyone is created equal. We must be unequivocally allowed to pursue life, liberty and happiness as we see fit for ourselves. All lives depend on it.
Robin Perlas is a Training Coordinator at ETR. She is a graduate of the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, where she completed a BA in Liberal Arts with a concentration in social justice, specifically as it pertains to racial disparities in U.S. drug policy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.