By guest blogger, Diana Dascalu-Joffe

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia may be a few weeks removed but the pain and shock are still very fresh. Witnessing that much hate, violence and anger perpetuated in the name of white supremacy and Nazi sentiment on the streets of an American city, shook me to my core. 

I am the immigrant daughter of two Eastern European immigrant parents, who fled a dangerous and violent dictatorship founded on the same twisted principles espoused by the white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville. My parents fled the “us vs. them” mentality. They fled the disturbing nationalism and fearmongering which led to a deep distrust in any dissenting voice, all for the purpose of keeping those in power at the top.  Many of the same themes that drove my parents away from that dictatorship are being celebrated among hate groups, in 2017, in America. 

The American dream was my parent’s salvation.  America was known around the world as welcoming of anyone looking for a better life and opportunity.  They came here with $20, two suitcases and a 2 year old.  No family to help support them or provide jobs or housing. Similar to many other immigration stories, my parents left the only home they ever knew, stability, family, jobs, their culture on a sliver of hope.  A leap of faith.  And a fierce determination to provide a safer and more just society for their young daughter.

The author, held by her mother, father to the left, Senator Ted Kennedy who sponsored their emigration and members of his staff. 1981.

The author, held by her mother, father to the left, Senator Ted Kennedy who sponsored their emigration and members of his staff. 1981.

The events in Charlottesville inspired me to re-visit my parent’s enduring bravery even when faced with endless hurdles. These events have also forced me to deeply acknowledge the struggles of Americans today who face discrimination and violence just because of the color of their skin, or what religion they practice, or what gender they are, or who they love.  Just participating in everyday society is an act of bravery for many people of color or LGBTQ in America.

The hate groups who have become emboldened in recent months are indiscriminate in their hate.  This makes me fear for my own kids. They are kids born of a Jewish parent and an immigrant parent. In fact, there is no one I care about that is safe from their hate. It is natural to feel helpless.  I have struggled a lot with outrage fatigue in the past few months.  There are constant blows both professionally and personally to grapple with.  Every day I struggle to defend and protect a planet that cannot defend itself. It’s infuriating and overwhelming at times. 

But then, I remember that justice and freedom and inclusion and liberty don’t come easy.  They never have, especially in America.  If my parent’s struggle taught me anything, it’s that we must face the hurdles together and be brave! Every day, people still risk everything to come to America for a better life. We owe it to them and the generations before to fight for that ideal. And to stand together against those that seek to divide us.  

Start small, in your own community.  Small acts of kindness and tolerance can change the world.  Connect with local anti-oppression groups like Brave Coalition! It’s times like these that will test our resolve and commitment to a better America.  I’m ready, will you join me?     

#bebrave #wearebrave