To my community,
The world is changing as I write these words, and I hope it’s still changing when you read them. People of all races in countries across the world are crying out in protest of the murder of George Floyd. A murder enabled by our country’s complacency regarding equal rights and the treatment of people of color, especially Black people, and perpetrated by one of the very officers sworn to serve and protect our communities.
As an organization, we have billed the Chicago Puppy Patrol as inclusive and welcoming. However, we will not ignore the fact that there are people from the very groups we’d like to include and welcome who would disagree with that statement. Looking at our collective history, we have not been sufficiently proactive at including marginalized groups, especially people from racial and ethnic minorities. It has only been in recent years that we have actively sought feedback from marginalized members of our community. It’s only recently that our leadership has made a culture of encouraging, even welcoming them to take us to task when we can do better. We are still growing as an organization to fully embody our values, but it has been rewarding as leaders as we watch our members begin to take up the actions and attitudes we have been working to promote.
The goal of our ongoing shift in club culture has been a change from passive inclusion to active listening. Passive inclusion from a position of privilege is easy. It rides on your understanding of the world: a world defined only by your life experiences and those things you’ve chosen to open yourself up to. It does not actively dismiss those who are different, but it makes no effort to hear, understand, and work constructively with them. Active listening starting from that same privilege is never easy. It requires patience, a willingness to learn, and the ability to swallow your pride and admit when you are wrong. It requires a realization not only of your privilege, but of the beliefs and actions you take for granted. The things that same privilege affords you. In the context of discourse on racial justice, that means putting yourself in uncomfortable positions between institutional racism and your family or friends, calling out their marginalizing behaviors and beliefs. It means taking a leap to expose yourself to new communities and cultures and recognizing your shared humanity through your differences. It means realizing that there are people that don’t share your luxury of choosing what experiences they open themselves up to. Those experiences are handed to them as soon as they walk through the door, just because the color of their skin spoke before they could.
Ella Baker, a civil rights and human rights activist whose career spanned fifty years, once said: “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.” To those who would cry “all lives matter” in the face of current events, they do. But right now, we have a responsibility to work for a future where we can say that all lives matter with the knowledge that they all matter equally to everyone and are given the same respect and care. A future where Ella’s vision is realized. Until then, we all have an obligation to our BIPOC members and community to affirm unequivocally that Black Lives Matter. Until then, our community and the world at large needs your help.
We encourage everyone to take action in support of movements that support the BIPOC in our community. We are asking everyone to step out of their comfort zone, be brave, and realize the privilege you might have. A problem of this scope can feel daunting to take on, and, while not everyone can or must take to the front lines of the protests, there are always ways to be involved:
• You can work within your sphere of influence and avoid complacency when confronted with casual racism.
• You can donate to organizations that lobby for legislation working to remedy the flaws in our system that allowed us to get to this point.
• You can donate to your community bond fund to help release protesters.
• You can sign petitions to mandate accountability for atrocities against BIPOC.
• You can volunteer to get supplies to protesters.
• You can stop promoting the messages of bigots by unfollowing them on social media to remove their platform.
• You can vote, and bully every politician that doesn’t focus on the rights and material needs of BIPOC rights at the poll box.
• Most importantly, you can listen, you can empathize, and you can learn.
It is the time for you to make your first move.
The world is holding its breath right now. George Floyd’s was stolen from him. He was robbed of his future, and the chance to see this world reborn. This new world is coming, and you have the opportunity to help shape it. It’s up to all of us to steward in its arrival.
Yours in Service,
John “Pup Red” Danaher
Chicago Puppy Patrol