This week, I had planned to send you – our members and supporters – a message to kick-off 2021 with a reflection on last year and the vision and priorities driving the work ahead for JDI. Wednesday’s unabashed display of the violence of white supremacy culture and toxic masculinity has only reinforced for me that: the work of JDI is as crucial as ever; our analysis must be grounded in the many ways that abuse of power, oppression, and gender-based violence are interconnected; and our strength is most certainly in our relationships and collective action.
Much has been said about the tragic events in Washington, D.C., and across the country. Words like insurrection, riot, devastation, domestic terrorism, authoritarianism, racism, and white supremacy only scratch the surface of the harm, brutality, and failings of our country that four hundred years have created.
We cannot forget that while this attack on our democratic process was unfolding, we learned there would be no charges brought against the Kenosha officer who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back and there were 65 deaths in Massachusetts from COVID19, a disproportionate number of them Black and Brown people.
Undeniably, these events shine a bright light on how the legacy of racism continues to wreak havoc – at times with lethal consequences – on our institutions, the health and safety of our communities, and on people’s lives. While we are all shaken by the events of January 6th, like the impact of the pandemic, all lives are not impacted equally. White supremacy terrorism is carefully targeted to destroy the lives of people who are not white, and we must center their trauma for healing.
The insidious nature of white supremacy culture is that it is invisible to those who benefit from it and inescapable to those who are directly impacted by it. The parallel and connections to our work remind us what it takes to expose the existence of sexual and domestic violence, the cultural pressure to minimize and distance oneself from any responsibility to end abuse so as not to disrupt the status quo, and the intersections of gender-based violence, racism, ableism, and other oppressions.
And, there is also hope for the future. On January 6th, we witnessed the power and beauty in Georgia of what is possible when Black women like Stacey Abrams and so many others, when people of color organize and strategize towards the fulfillment of our country’s founding democratic ideals of liberty, equality, and freedom.
For JDI, our movement here and across the country, we have so much work to do to heal, repair, and create new ways of being. Together, we have much to learn and to do to dismantle racist systems and structures, to create true accountability, and to restore justice for all who are harmed.
In the fall, the JDI staff identified three ongoing priorities to undergird our work: Centering the Most Marginalized, Lifting Up Sexual Assault Survivors and Services, and Addressing Collective and Individual Trauma and Resilience. Our policy, programmatic, and organizational approaches and strategies will reflect this commitment. In the coming months I will share more about how these priorities align with our vision of being an anti-racist organization.
These times call for bold action; this is a time for civic engagement and investing in social justice and racial equity activism in our communities. I am humbled by the challenges before us and invite you to continue to engage with us as we move forward.
Debra J. Robbin, Executive Director, and the entire JDI Team