The events of the last few weeks have been extremely challenging for our community and our nation. Not only are we in the midst of a pandemic that seems destined to continue, but we’ve seen violence escalate to levels unfamiliar to most of us and unacceptable to all of us.
The media has done an admirable job of helping raise awareness about the increasing rates of domestic violence during the pandemic. It’s real. We see it every day at YCC. It’s not surprising that when you layer job loss, home quarantine, wage reductions, children at home (full-time parenting) on top of already dysfunctional relationships, it can be a recipe for disastrous results. Sadly, people speak of this trend in violence as if it’s inevitable. Perhaps they are even resigned to it.
The recent death of Chynna Toilolo, still under investigation, the killing of Ogden Police Officer Nathan Lyday and the wounding of another officer, and now the murder-suicide of a father and his young sons in South Jordan are all examples of the far-reaching and devastating grasp of domestic violence. It affects far more people than just those in the immediate relationship. Our community is rocked, grieving, shaken. Lives and families are forever altered. But these deaths are not in isolation, disconnected from a bigger picture.
The racist vitriol spewed at Christian Cooper, and the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Abery and now of George Floyd are generating a national conversation. Finally. Around race. Around police and police brutality. Around racism — individual, and structurally ingrained racism and injustice. Finally. So how do we join this conversation? How do we each do our part to become part of the solution and stop contributing to the problem?
Yes, I said contributing to the problem. Because it’s not enough to be nonviolent. We must be anti-violent. It’s not enough to be nonracist. We must become anti-racist. It’s not enough to be inclusive. We must be anti-separatists. In other words, we must be actively working to dismantle the systems and beliefs that perpetuate sexism, inequality, injustice and violence.
If we choose to not actively work toward a more peaceful and equitable existence for all, then we are passively letting the events of the last few weeks continue to unfold time and time again. And we should not be surprised when it happens because we are complicit. And we will be left to point the proverbial finger only at ourselves.
Ask yourself why do you know the names Christian, Ahmaud and George, but most of you haven’t heard of Breonna? Because black women, and violence against black women is even more dismissed than violence against black men. In a 2017 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, black women experience higher rates of intimate partner violence, and the Prison Policy Initiative found black women more likely to be pulled over in traffic stops, be incarcerated and face police violence directed against them than white women.
Many of you may be asking what this has to do with domestic violence and perhaps even suggesting I should “stay in my lane.” The truth is the lanes of of race, gender, sexual orientation and religious expression collide at intersections. Justice matters, regardless of your demographics. When we speak of social justice, this is it. It is illustrated beautifully by the notion that “all lives matter.” Of course they do. But that simply is not the case until all “Black Lives Matter.” It is not the case until all gay and transgender lives matter. It is not the case until all women’s lives matter. Then we have justice and we have equality.
So here’s how to start the conversation: First, look in the mirror. Is there a white person staring back? If so, acknowledge your privilege. Start there. Start an honest, internal dialogue about our own advantages, our own biases and our own fears. Second, believe people are equal. Equality is a mindset that ultimately informs policy. Ask yourself, do you speak up when you see or know about injustices happening? Or do you “mind your own business” and quickly go on your way? Or maybe, just maybe, are you yourself abusive? Third, listen. Get involved. Attend classes. Read. Learn. Find diverse community events and groups to support. You’ll make connections, and soon, friends. Because when we know each other, we find our common humanity. And we all need more of that. Fourth: speak up. The cost of silence and inaction is a burden we can no longer bear (Futures Without Violence, 2020).
In the meantime, YCC Family Crisis Center will be working in the community to help build healthy relationships and prevent violence in all forms, centering our work around eliminating domestic and sexual violence. We will continue to support victims 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and work with our community partners to protect the most vulnerable citizens. We invite you to join with us to affect change and create a more peaceful existence where we can all breathe a little easier. Learn more at yccogden.org.