Why We Need Strong Leadership to Safeguard our Values

by Joseph M. Costa

charlottesville nc

Photo Credit:  McEldowney/Richmond Times-Dispatch

Recently Hillsides restated our vision statement to read, “We envision a world in which children and young adults, families, and communities are able to heal, grow and thrive.” Unfortunately, the unbridled displays of white supremacism  in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend and the ensuing violence, which resulted  in the tragic loss of three lives, are the most recent demonstration of a growing trend that has seen an almost 24 percent growth in hate crimes in 2016. Given that some 80 percent of clients we serve are Latino and eight percent African American, it is clear that the world we envision for our children, young adults and families is a perilous one that threatens our hope for them to heal, grow and thrive.

Some things we must safeguard are absolutes: violence is unacceptable, racism is evil, and intolerance is unjustified. We must be unequivocal in our condemnation whether we are an elected official or an average citizen. To see hatred on display in such a graphic fashion as last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville is frightening. The response must elicit a clear and swift condemnation and resolve to counter bigotry in its many forms.

All those we serve have experienced significant trauma. The events of this past week have only further traumatized them. Our clients are skeptical that they can hope for a full life when a segment of our society views them as a threat because of the color of their skin, ethnicity or religion. As always, given the unvarnished display of prejudice, we are committed to provide a safe place for our clients to address their fears, offer support and encourage advocacy.

In the spirit of advocacy, we are grateful to those elected officials and community and religious leaders who have raised their voices in condemnation of racism. Such a clear statement of support for what we value the most is greatly appreciated. We must insist all elected representatives unite in opposition to bigotry and clearly state it unequivocally.

The public dialogue over the last week has exposed the racial divide that persists generations after freedom was painfully gained for African Americans. More than ever, we need a President who can name the challenge without justifying violence and serve as a mediator, not an instigator, of division. This is a time when communities must speak clearly against hatred and violence and support efforts to ease the fears generated by racially fueled prejudice.  Only then can we restore a sense of hope and create and sustain “a world in which children and young adults, families, and communities are able to heal, grow and thrive.”


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