At recent public meetings, members of the public have used hateful and bullying behavior to pressure the Assembly, drown out other voices, and denigrate the histories and collective trauma of people who identify as Black, Indigenous, people of color, Jewish, LGBTQ+ and those who experience disabilities. We, the Alaska Black Caucus and the Allies for Change, condemn this behavior.
This week, some individuals adorned themselves with the yellow Star of David to express their belief that being asked to wear a mask to protect others from COVID-19 was comparable to the terror, oppression and murder of 6 million Jewish people under Nazi rule. We condemn their disruptive behavior. And we condemn their use of symbols diminishing the experiences of Jewish people and their family members, many of whom live in our community.
We have also had to listen to individuals compare mask-wearing to the enslavement of African people in the United States. African American people endured and survived hundreds of year of genocidal oppression, rape, separation of families and countless other forms of trauma. Black Americans today are family members of those whose lives, labor, children and liberty were taken from them. There can be no comparison between slavery and mass murder and being asked to wear a mask to save lives during a worldwide pandemic.
We do not believe that this loud but small group represents the majority in Anchorage. This week’s data shows that 69% of those eligible in Anchorage have received their first vaccine shot. In 2020, most people willingly wore masks and many people continue to do so today. We know that most people in Anchorage respect and care for one another, and believe in the importance of fairness and civility.
Everyone deserves to participate and be heard in our civic discussions without intimidation or bullying, and without fearing harm from others. Our Assembly members, who are our neighbors, do not deserve this hostility and disrespect from the public as they diligently do a difficult and important job.
We ask all who stand for respect and fairness in our community to let your voices be heard. Prejudice and hatred have no place in Anchorage. While we are all exhausted from the pandemic, we can only come through this by working together with civility and respect. We must move from shouting to listening, as we work to repair the rent in our tattered social fabric.
Please join us in sharing your support for our Assembly members, for our health care workers, and for all our neighbors, by pledging to respect and treat with care and civility every person who calls Anchorage home.
Celeste Hodge Growden is the president and CEO of the Alaska Black Caucus. She submits this commentary on behalf of and with the endorsement of the ABC and its Allies for Change.
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