Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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YWCA Evanston/North Shore talks solidarity, white supremacy at annual ‘Unite Against Racism’ campaign

Nineth Kanieski Koso/The Daily Northwestern
From left to right, panelists Jessica Vazquez Torres, Tanya Watkins, Shawna Bowman and Xavier Ramsey speak about solidarity and white supremacy.

Around 200 Evanston residents attended a panel for the YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s annual Unite Against Racism campaign Wednesday evening.

A national initiative of YWCA USA, Unite Against Racism supports racial justice initiatives and raises awareness about the negative impact of institutional racism. YWCA Evanston/North Shore has previously held annual public demonstrations and discussion sessions, but this year, the organization has shifted the format to an educational dialogue focused on how organizations can act in solidarity with communities.

The panel, titled “Practicing Solidarity and Imaging New Futures,” was facilitated by Crossroads Antiracism National Program Director Jessica Vazquez Torres. It featured Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation Executive Director Tanya Watkins, Justice Informed founder and CEO Xavier Ramsey and Friendship Presbyterian Church pastor Shawna Bowman.

“We want to walk out of here equipped with a deeper, deeper understanding of what accountable solidarity looks like and why that is necessary,” Vazquez Torres said.

Each panelist gave their interpretation of what it means to stand in solidarity. Ramsey said inward reflection is the first step in cultivating solidarity within oneself.

As a “third-generation community organizer,” Ramsey said he is well-acquainted with what it means to fight for equality.

“I have to both face and fight in a desire to live (my) best life,” said Ramsey, who is Black. “In a desire to live with a freeness of my heart, my spirit, my soul, despite the limitations of my legal, social and physical safety in this country.”

Ramsey also said that creating a “system of love” is one of the most effective ways to start tearing down historical systems of anger and oppression.

Bowman offered their perspective on how to fight against systematic oppression, saying white people must become comfortable with discomfort when thinking about how they benefit from white supremacy.

“As a white person speaking to white people, we have a lot of work to do,” Bowman said. “One of the functions of white supremacy is that it supports a lot of our ways of being, and we’re unaware of the relationship.”

Bowman said white people are “risk-averse,” adding they are often afraid to speak out against injustice. To combat racism and other forms of injustice, white people must take risks with their peers in solidarity, they added.

Watkins acknowledged that, although holding people accountable can be difficult, especially when they are close family or friends, sometimes that is the only path to progress.

“If you are unwilling to confront white supremacy around your white friends, in the face of your dad or your mom — if you are sitting at the Thanksgiving table with people who are blatantly racist — you can never be a comrade, you are never in solidarity,” Watkins said.

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