By Kristy Milligan, executive director of Citizens Project
Community. It’s not an us or them issue: black or white, gay or straight, Democrat or Republican, religious or non-religious. Community transcends all the lines that divide us and pervades every aspect of our lives, from our safety on the streets to the natural beauty of our parks.
Community is the conversation we have about ourselves. Community is the way we relate to one another and our surroundings. Community is our shared sense of belonging, purpose and vision.
This shared vision is infinitely more important than the paths we pursue to achieve it. As a community, we can agree on many shared goals.We want healthy families, excellent schools, low crime rates, high employment rates, beautiful parks, strong infrastructure and the freedom to be accepted, even honored, exactly as we are. We want a climate that attracts and retains new talent and supports the businesses already here. We may hold different beliefs about the journey to these things, but we converge on these shared values. And our strength as a community hinges on our ability to recognize these shared goals and stand together, even in times of duress.
Last week, two U.S. soldiers were assaulted in an apparently bias-motivated crime. While violence of any kind poses a threat to the safety of all our community’s members, there is also a more imminent danger presented. Because accounts of the incident report the soldiers were gay and the perpetrators were African American, we may be tempted to engage in divisive and destructive conversations about the nature of hate crime, the morality of the gay community, the cause of the tremendous injustice that our service members suffered. We may be enticed to follow ideological, religious, and philosophical paths that divide us.
But we’ve been here before, Colorado Springs. We know where those fractured paths lead. At this critical moment, we must put down our pointing fingers and remember that we belong to each other. We belong to this community.
We cannot wait for any one resolution or event to change our community, and we cannot rely on anyone else to lead us to that change. We are our own best advocates, and we are the directors of our destiny. We must stand for something altogether different, and say not in our community. Starting today, not in our community.
No hate. No violence. No refusing to work with the other side. No blaming.
Just standing together in solidarity with the soldiers and one another. Joining our voices in support of the whole community’s safety and our shared goals.
It is through this solidarity that we will become the community we deserve to be. The community that recognizes the richness and vibrancy of its own diversity and supports efforts – even those across lines that traditionally divide us – aimed at elevating the conversation, empowering all our community members and uniting us to accomplish our collective goals. We must celebrate our successes, including the recently reinstated Human Relations Commission, the incipient Pikes Peak Safe Schools Coalition, and the success of the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum.
Yes, a lot of people are disappointed that Mayor Bach and City Council failed to sign a resolution denouncing hate crimes. I’m one of them. But we can either dwell in our disappointment, or we can forge ahead, together, to create a new path. A path that’s characterized by the diversity of people travelling it. A path that leads to a greater quality of life for all residents and businesses in the Pikes Peak region.
As a community, we have the opportunity to have a new conversation and truly work together in ways we never have before. I hope you’ll join me, and Citizens Project, in having that conversation and beginning that work.