Just as a traumatic wound cannot be healed with a mere bandage, local advocates believe racism and racial injustice cannot be solved with silence.
And just like a traumatic wound, healing the injuries caused by racism can be uncomfortable and painful.
“People get very defensive, and we are going to have work through that if we are going to fix things,” said Robin Scaer, executive director of YWCA Carlisle.
“I think (race) is so emotionally charged, and people get defensive and have knee-jerk reactions because they immediately say ‘I’m not that way,’” she added. “We all have things we have to work on. I think for some people, it’s scary because it means (we) as a society are not good at change.”
From the murder of nine people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by Dylan Roof, who reportedly wanted to incite a race war, to the white nationalist rally in August in Charlottesville, Virginia, Scaer said recent events have exposed an undercurrent in society that needs to be addressed.
“Because (the racism) wasn’t overt, it was under the radar,” Scaer said. “The election just ripped that Band-aid off, and the wound is exposed and it’s raw. The only good thing here is that because it is raw and exposed, we are starting to deal with it.”
Scaer said her organization has had the goal of confronting and eliminating racism and racial injustice for nearly 100 years.
“There is this much more public and open forum of ‘oh my gosh,’ I really need to stop and hear what others are saying they are experiencing and try to understand what that means for our community as a whole,” She said.
YWCA Carlisle has held multiple public forums to discuss issues as they arise, including a forum shortly after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown.
Another forum was held shortly after the shooting deaths of Philado Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana last year.
YWCA Carlisle also assisted with the unity rally that was held in downtown Carlisle in response to the events in Charlottesville.
“It’s encouraging that we had the unity rally ... It is bringing people together,” Scaer said. “But, what’s the next step beyond just having the rally. We’ve had rallies before. It’s getting people to that next step.”
Scaer said the community needs to be more proactive at addressing issues of racism. It cannot wait until after an incident happens to respond.
“It cannot fall on the few in the marginalized communities within our greater community to be responsible for those in the majority who are in charge and (have) the ability to make the changes,” she said.
Scaer said it will also take bringing together community organizations like YWCA Carlisle, Hope Station and The Greater Carlisle Project – all of which deal with aspects of race and community—to better address the societal issue.
“These silos are problematic because you never come together then to address things and solve things,” she said.
Scaer also said a focus needs to be put on youth to make sure the cycle of racism can be stopped.
“It’s like preventive education,” she said. “We need to set positive attitudes and behaviors about who you are and how you interact with people, no matter what they look like.
“In today’s world, I think (people) are directly and negatively impacted by what happens to them and their friends,” Scaer added. “There’s just so many negatives things happening, and we need to give them space to process that.”