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Demanding a Future

Posted by Anti-Racism Program on June 30, 2008

by Hierald Edgardo Kane-Osorto, Associate Director of Multicultural Programs, Messiah College

Looking to the future and remembering the past, I am always in a tension of co-existing between realities that are painful yet at the same time allow me to experience new possibilities for a better future. I continue to find myself in a position that is interconnected with both the realities of economic inequality and deeply rooted racism. As I look towards the upcoming elections, I am grappling with what to ask of the presidential candidates. Many are hopeful that we are embarking into a new stage of this nation’s history; one in which a black man and a white woman have a viable chance to be President of the United States. Yet, the realities of classism and racism within my own life cause me to question whether we are truly embarking into a new era, especially when I consider that this nation has been founded on systemic oppression and privilege. Do I have a voice? Is my very being in this society capable of advancing an agenda of justice?

As a young Latino growing up shifting between the inner city of Newark, New Jersey, and the countryside of El Salvador, I was forced to be aware of the interworkings of race and economics in the United States. My family’s displacement can be traced to the United States government’s position of oppression during the war of the 80s, fought in the name of economic advancement and hidden behind the mask of war on communism. This fact remains a very real part of my being. The repression continues to this day in El Salvador, whose currency is the US dollar and whose economy is dependent on money earned by Salvadorans working in the United States, who send their money back to family members in order to ensure their survival. Likewise, the US government in collaboration with the Salvadoran government maintains a position of oppression and power through the imprisonment of a large number of young men of color who have been driven to gang violence due to economic suppression. In looking at these complexities, I begin to connect the dots between my experience as a young person in the United States and the experiences of others around the world. There is a juxtaposition of our realities. We as people of color, regardless of nationality, continually suffer from economic repression. It is not due to simple causality that those who are impoverished both in the US and around the world are people of color.

Imperialism, colonialism, and US dominance are not simply driven by economic markets but also serve to maintain a powerful and pervasive system of oppression against people of color. As a young Latino, the future can seem full of despair. A systemic attitude of apathy and hopelessness is infused in many young people early on in their lives. But even as inequalities persist, more and more people of color become aware that our movements, our voice is just as powerful and needs to be in a position that will move us forward. This is not in the form of an agenda or platform but a practice to build a society that is just and founded on principles that provide opportunities for all. This is an inalienable human right we must outright demand from our politicians. As we move into a critical election for this country, we must remind ourselves that, together, our voice is powerful. But more than just demanding justice we need to live it out ourselves. We cannot expect our leaders to change if we ourselves are not living lives of consciousness towards the transformation of society.

My dear friend Reverend Marta Benavides has continually provided me with inspiration. She states, that in order to move forward, “We must be about social transformation through culture, and since culture is all that we do, or not do, we must intentionally create conditions, time, and space for the expansion of consciousness of ourselves and the citizenry by working with the collective imagination, with ethics and aesthetics, to promote the conscious choice to be planetary and global citizens.” Her words resonate with me because they allow me to see a future of hope rather than of oppression. To live out a life of change is not denying the reality of co-existing (and sometimes not existing at all) but realizing that what we do needs to be rooted in a message of justice and equality. As we move forward into the next stage of this country and this planet, we need to remind ourselves that we have to move forward together as a group of committed people who draw from the lessons of our ancestors to shape the policies of our future. We have the right to demand the same from our elected officials: to listen and to carry out what is just for our society and understand the active role they play in continually moving forward the social transformation of society.

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