There is no doubt that 2020 was an emotionally taxing year. In the last 12 months, we’ve witnessed more hate, violence, and fear perhaps than many of us on the KBEP staff have seen in our lifetime.
Our team came together and decided to share our deeply personal experiences with confronting privilege, fear, racism, sexual violence, hatred, and bigotry. We share our stories, while cautiously relishing in the possibility of a renewed sense of hope, as a necessary reminder that our work is far from over.
As we usher in a new year and a new administration we also continue to vehemently stand in support of survivors, of people of color, of the LGBTQ+ community, and against brutality, hate, and all violence.
KBEP’s staff will continue to actively support folks through our workshops and classroom education. We will take care of each other and our community. We will continue to celebrate and learn from our incredibly resilient and diverse staff and community. And we will keep sharing our stories.
Angela, Programs Manager: Despite the ever-unfolding events of my lifetime, it is not until recently that I have done a serious self-examination of my whiteness. I’ve viewed myself as a good and decent person. I’ve lifted up people’s character, ignored their appearance, and felt this was enough. It was not enough. My ignorance and inaction, have made me complicit in ongoing systemic racism.
As a white person, I now acknowledge that my skin color is a form of social currency. I have access to opportunities that are actively denied to Black and Brown folks. My experiences as a survivor of any type of violence will look vastly different from those who don’t look like me. When I am shamed or victim-blamed my identity as a woman may be attacked or called into question but my skin color won’t be. Violence prevention work and well-meaning advocacy efforts will not be effective if we do not examine all the ways our culture, our policies, and our hiring practices, uphold white supremacy.
Our work must create permanent spaces for the voices and experiences of Black, Brown, and Indigenous survivors of domestic and sexual violence. I’ve challenged myself to recognize the power and privilege I have in my life and how I must utilize it for structural change.
Crystal, Communications and Business Development Manager: More than ever, I am struggling with the implications of being a person of color in a predominantly white world. My five-year-old son learned about MLK Jr. at school. His first questions were, “Could someone shoot me because of what I look like?” and “Dad (who is white), do you not like brown people?”
It seems like for every proud moment for people of color there is an equally devastating moment rooted in violence, hatred, and fear. And how do we teach our children to feel empowered about their identities when tragedy continues to wash away that joy?
No one should have to fight for respect, care, and understanding. I do matter. Nothing “political” should exist about respecting and embracing people of color. When we put cultural identity in political boxes we create dangerous spaces where the rights of others are debatable.
Deshaun, Educator: The storming of the capital and other tragic events in the United States seems to be only the beginning of what’s to come. My wife and I continue to be concerned about what the future holds for not only us but our daughter. We are worried about what our daughter might go through in the future and what obstacles she might face as a person of color. All we can do is teach her how to be respectful in a world that may not respect her back. Be kind to others, though they may not be kind back to her. My wife and I have learned to somewhat deal with events similar to the ones that unfolded. What worries us the most is knowing that our daughter might grow up experiencing this.
Carrie, Administrator: The violence and the threat of future violence, at our nation and state capitals is 100% pure intimidation and bullying. It’s goal is to incite fear during a time when our country is trying to accept, and peacefully reunite with the change of our administration as we have done throughout our history.
Libbi, Educator: This has been the most professionally challenging and rewarding year of my life. The recent gutting of Title IX, the altering of the Department of Justice definition of domestic violence, and the failure of the government to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act have each been a devastating blow to survivors across the country. As a rape, abduction, and domestic abuse survivor, I have relied on the very resources that have now been cut or put in jeopardy. Knowing that the access to support for survivors is so diminished, our work in a prevention capacity feels more important than ever. Anyone who dismisses these efforts as fruitless or inconsequential should know that we’re regularly informed of the lives we’ve saved and crises we’ve prevented by educating. Mine is only one of them.
Mandy, Educator: Truthfully, I’m exhausted. Lately ‘joining the discussion’ feels like something you have to wear body armor for. I find myself wondering how many condemnations of inequality, quotes of unity, and proven statistics need referencing before it finally feels like others are listening. Yet as an educator I still feel immensely responsible to push forward, have those hard conversations, read the appropriate literature and reflect on my own bias. The problems we face as a society are not new, but the action we take now will determine our history.
Claire, Executive Director: This year has been hard beyond words. The myriad of ways inequality is manifesting throughout this pandemic shows us that our humanity is in crisis. The deepest fissures of our society have been brought to the surface and the rug that used to hide it is no longer big enough. False assumptions, blatant ignorance, the inability to recognize privilege, and the systemic oppression that infiltrates our justice, health care, and education systems can no longer be ignored. We have witnessed numerous events over the last year that demonstrate hate and violence. A hate that has been nurtured by misogyny and systemic racism; and stemming from that hate are the dangerous attitudes and consequently, violent behaviors that undermine the efforts my team and I work so hard to prevent. From the butchering of protections for sexual assault victims under Title IX, to the brute racism and disparate response by law enforcement during the Black Lives Matter protests in stark contrast to the Capitol insurrection earlier this month – the double standards are clear.
These events, rooted in hate, in fear, in privilege, and in a misogynistic desire for power and control, mirror that of an abusive relationship, with unfair expectations and limited opportunities based on gender, race, and sexual orientation. The threats, gaslighting, violent escalation and retaliation, is familiar to all of us in this field. The cycle of violence is on display. For victims of abuse it is necessary that they get to a point where they can no longer tolerate the abuse, and they take action to stop it. We are there, this abuse cannot be tolerated or ignored, and we cannot stay there for even one more day.
And at the end of day, I take pride in knowing the Katie Brown Educational Program will prevail, the team of people working to advance our mission are the most genuine, passionate, intelligent, and self-aware people who have challenged themselves, and worked harder over the last year than I would have thought possible. We have leaned on each other from a distance, garnered strength and support on days where we just didn’t want to get up and face a world that seemed to not value our work, our mission, our purpose, and we have made a commitment to do this work with more gumption and force than ever before.
After this year of challenges, we will move forward. We will continue to advance our mission, to impart knowledge, to raise awareness, and work to create a world that is fairer, safer, and just simply, better.