I may be mistaken, but I think we can generally count the YMCA/YWCA among the multifarious institutions subservient to the reigning shibboleths and clichés that dictate so much of the way we live now. Consider this message sent out by the YWCA Evanston/North Shore this past Thursday. The reader who forwards the message comments: “It offers both freakout and the sort of political partisanship by nonprofits masquerading as ‘diversity’ and ’empowerment’ we’ve come to expect.”
From: “YWCA Evanston/North Shore”
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2016 4:17:02 PM
Subject: A message from Karen Singer
We walk through our doors at the YWCA Evanston/North Shore each morning determined to make our communities more just and equitable, determined to work for women’s empowerment and equality, for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body, for freedom from violence, and for people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, cultures and religions to feel that they are embraced, have opportunity, are respected and that their lives are valued.
Yesterday morning, we walked through our doors and felt that instead of a glass ceiling shattering, the floor had dropped out from under us. We sat and grieved together for what seemed to be a national affirmation of everything that is antithetical to what we aspire to and hold as our most cherished values.
We are all searching for an explanation; a way to get our heads around something we are struggling to understand. How can the climate and rhetoric of hate, racism, violence against women, and fear have been given its ultimate validation?
Mia, a staff member who answers our domestic violence crisis line, wrote something yesterday that especially resonated with us:
“(My son) stayed up with me until 12:30 am. He went to bed knowing it was probably over, but saying that maybe it wasn’t. There was a tiny bit of hope in his heart. The Cubs taught him about late night miracles last week. Still, I could hear the despair in his voice when he said, ‘I don’t want to go to school tomorrow, Mom.'”
“In the morning I came downstairs immediately after hearing him get up. I hugged him long and hard, with tears in my eyes, tears that are still in my eyes as I type this. I said, ‘I love you.’ And then I said, ‘You have to go to school today. You have to go to school for all those girls and Latinos and blacks and gays and Muslims at your school who were just told by America that they are not valued. You have to show up for them.'”
“To all of us who were told by this election that we do not matter, that our rights are irrelevant, I will show up for you. I will stand with you and I will fight every injustice I see. I will continue to use my voice as best as I can. For all of us. Even for those who voted differently. Because their rights may come under attack as well.”
Mia speaks for all of us at YWCA Evanston/North Shore. And like her and her son, we will show up every day to say and to demonstrate that we stand together. We will work together to fight bigotry and injustice. We will work together to ensure that our values not only stay intact, but prevail.
We live in a blue city bubble, and those of us who live in this big metropolitan area have heard but not fully appreciated or understood the deep anxieties and lived experiences of others as profoundly as we should. We need to build bridges across what seems, right now, like a vast chasm. The more we talk about the divisions, without finding common ground, the more polarized we become as a nation.
We are uncertain of what lies ahead and that can feel very scary. But let us not react in fear. We need to reach out, build connections and coalitions, build a more inclusive and united voice that brings out the best in who we all are. We need to move to action and double down on creating more just communities, a more just country for all. At the same time, we must never lose sight of and stop fighting for the values we uphold, and we must resist any encroachment on our fundamental human rights and notions of justice.
Let us not forget that while the glass ceiling was not shattered, it was cracked. For the first time in history, a major political party nominated a woman for president. But this election season has been a stark indicator that our work is as relevant and necessary as ever. We must and will continue to eliminate racism and empower women, listen with empathy and act in solidarity, and reaffirm the values that are the foundation of our mission: dignity, justice, and respect.
Hold tight to the vision of what we know we can be.
Karen Singer, CEO, and all of us at YWCA Evanston/North Shore
YWCA Evanston/North Shore
1215 Church Street
Evanston, IL 60201