As a new federal administration is ready to take the helm tomorrow, I am filled with a sense of hope for our nation’s future. Yet we must all learn from the past, which is why I feel compelled to reflect on the undeniable fact that we’ve had the wrong type of leadership at the top for the last four years.
A soulless individual in the White House bears full responsibility for the assault on our democratic processes and institutions. From Day One, he has pushed forth an agenda of division, with every issue framed as “us vs. them.” Such an inequitable framework was methodically applied around issues of race, gender, sexual identity and many other historically marginalized groups.
With regard to the Latino community, there has been a drumbeat of hate-filled rhetoric seeking to divide us based on our legal status. For example, the attempt to separate DACA families by sending children and young people who were raised in the U.S. back to their countries of origin — often a place they no longer know or understand. Or the separation of immigrant children from their parents at the border, a truly callous act, with people held in cages. These cages symbolized the calculated attempt to separate Latinos from the rest of our society by making us seem less than, showing that we did not belong. The actions were reprehensible. Immoral. Unjust.
Conversely, I have witnessed the true leadership that has been demonstrated by the Latino community of San Francisco’s Mission District. While we see a threat to our democracy — and continue to see the highest rate of COVID-19 in our city for any ethnic group, and its subsequent economic impacts — the good work continues. Community groups feed families at various soup kitchens and community hubs. Housing coaches work with tenants to ensure they are not evicted. Small businesses are offered technical assistance and have PPE distributed to them so they can operate safely. There are even relief funds being distributed to ensure that community members who have fallen ill to the virus are able to self-quarantine — and are able to make it through the next day.
Our community, as is the case in other low-income communities of color, is fully united in our efforts to best support those families most in need.
The leadership shown by San Francisco’s Latino community is exactly the type of leadership that this country needs if it is to ever become the “more perfect Union” promised 245 years ago. This is leadership that is moral and compassionate. This is leadership that puts others before oneself. This is leadership that unites rather than sows division.
And this is the type of leadership that our nation needs to move forward.
Photo by Bruce Damonte (brucedamonte.com)