The Ripple Effect vs. The Avalanche – Carla Javits, REDF President and CEO

The multiple violent incidents of the past few days seemed like an avalanche, and led me to contemplate rescue after an actual avalanche. Survival depends upon brave, humane people who are motivated to come and find us under the snow. And we need more of them now than we ever have.

This past week alone, an African American man and woman – Maurice Stallard and Vickie Jones – were shot and killed by a white supremacist at a grocery store in Kentucky after the shooter had initially tried to enter a (full) African-American church nearby. Pipe bombs were sent to former President Obama, among a host of other elected officials and progressive activists and donors by someone who had posted on social media regularly about his prejudiced views. And then 11 people worshiping in a synagogue in Pittsburgh were shot to death by an avowed anti-Semite.

The events reflect an awful reality that hate crimes are rising in the US.

These outrageous, violent incidents cannot be tolerated. At the same time, the fact that they are happening, and with increasing frequency, can generate feelings of vulnerability, fear, and anger—among the groups of people being targeted, and among us all.

REDF’s work is part of the fabric of our country, among the many core institutions that oppose hate and prejudice; and promote inclusion, affirmation of our common humanity, love, and compassion.

In addition to leading REDF, as a Jewish woman and a married lesbian with two grown children, I have personally felt the sting of prejudice on all counts. And a lifetime of observation has too often left me astonished and disgusted at the level of covert and overt racism directed at African-American, Latinx, Native American, and Asian American friends and colleagues.

A friend shared this from James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”  In these times, we do what we can to take care of ourselves and one another. Sometimes that means just being with friends and family. And it also means taking what actions we can on a range of issues from electoral politics to organizing against hate and violence directed at people because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, LGBTQI or immigration status, and others.

Our colleagues and partners in the social enterprise community are a haven, offering each other kindness, understanding and support, and examples of how we can and must, together, face the realities and press as hard as we can for change.

On that note, REDF’s Ripple Effect campaign highlights the extraordinary lives of people who have more reasons than most for the kind of bitterness and anger that has fueled the most recent paroxysm of violence. But instead, we have come to know Pablo and JaShawn, and so many others, who, despite witnessing and experiencing traumatic violence, fractured families, imprisonment, and homelessness, soar ahead once they are offered a chance to contribute, working in a social enterprise business –where they are valued and respected. And now they give back. Not by expressing their anger, fear or resentment with hate, but instead by helping others, and becoming a force for change in our communities. In a sense, “rescuing” others from the avalanche.

It’s time to double down on love, following the lead of people who have done the alchemy, turning the worst of times into the best of the human spirit. What can we do? Volunteer. Help someone out. Listen, learn, and humanize that ‘other’ person. Challenge your company to eliminate barriers to hiring people with records of incarceration. Support social enterprise by buying their products and services. And don’t forget to exert your right to vote next Tuesday.