The Time to Stand Together Has Always Been Now

As we come to the end of another year, we are at a time when many people around the world reflect on what the holiday of Christmas means to them. As the  “War on Christmas” debate takes its usual center stage in the discussion on what Christmas means in America, it seems we may be missing opportunities to live up to some of the values commonly ascribed to Christmas – goodwill, community, generosity. And we certainly are missing opportunities to live up to the American values we espouse all year long – freedom, opportunity, equality. I am referring, of course, to recent and sometimes hateful/violent rhetoric around immigrants and people of color.  With presidential candidates debating the best ways to keep Muslim immigrants out of the country and profiling them all as terrorists; and our own governor suggesting we need to ban refugees and further marginalize immigrants living here, there certainly appears to be a shortage of seasonal goodwill this year.

At NCWU, we believe that we can always find better, more just solutions to our problems when we come together, rather than when we divide. And while we believe a healthy democracy requires a robust debate of ideas, we must denounce the hateful speech we have been hearing – about Muslims, about immigrants, about women, and about people of color. To use such vitriolic rhetoric in a society with many disaffected people who have easy access to firearms and heavy weaponry is irresponsible and dangerous; and it will not bring us any peace or solve our difficult problems. We like to believe – we do believe – the United States is better than this. And we certainly believe North Carolina is better than this.

NCWU and some of our members have joined with our immigrant neighbors in speaking out against these words and actions, including condemning the racist and damaging HB318 which was passed into law this past fall. We are proud to stand in solidarity with the North Carolina immigrant community, and I was honored again to be invited to speak at the recent Unity Service hosted by the NC NAACP and El Pueblo. Speakers from the NAACP, El Pueblo, the Fountain of Raleigh Fellowship and Democracy NC called on all of us to protect our democracy by protecting our communities and each other; and we all spoke to the need to stand together to challenge white supremacy and the status quo that calls on us to divide into groups, suppressing our shared humanity.

You can read my remarks below. Thanks to all of you who have joined us on this journey in 2015, and we look forward to building on this movement in 2016.

Tara Romano, NCWU, President

Good evening. My name is Tara Romano, and I am president of North Carolina Women United. We advocate for the full equality of all women and girls across the state, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity and immigration status. And we are proud to stand with all of you at this moment in North Carolina.

We condemn the passage of HB318, the turning away of unaccompanied immigrant minors, and the anti-immigration lawsuit that North Carolina is a part of. We condemn the hate speech and fearmongering taking place nationally that has led to violence and punishing policies; and we condemn the narrative that refugees and immigrants are all terrorists and criminals. We condemn these actions and words as rooted in racism and xenophobia. And we condemn those who use these tactics to deflect our attention from those in power who abuse their power to get rich on the backs of others.

We stand here to push back against the story that black and brown people are the reason North Carolinians struggle to find good jobs; when we know that 80 counties across the state have more job seekers than jobs because of the failed economic policies of our state leadership.

We stand here to push back against the narrative that immigrants only bring crime and violence into our communities; when we know that pushing people into the shadows rather than letting them live in the light actually makes them more vulnerable as the victims of crime and exploitation. This fearmongering distracts us from the economic and political violence being perpetuated on all of us every day by those in power.

We stand here to say that America is a county of immigrants, and always has been. It’s what’s made our country great and strong and vibrant, and we believe it has done the same in North Carolina. We stand here to say North Carolina is better than these racist and xenophobic policies and rhetoric.

Civil rights activist Anne Braden said ““In every age, no matter how cruel the oppression carried on by those in power, there have been those who struggled for a different world. I believe this is the genius of humankind, the thing that makes us half divine: the fact that some human beings can envision a world that has never existed.”  Today, we stand here to envision what could be, rather than accepting what is, and to create that better North Carolina that we believe we can be. Thank you.