I write this on Dec. 6, the day after the Madison Common Council passed a resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza. While it would have been nice to see 21 names on the resolution as sponsors, it was nonetheless gratifying to see it pass unanimously.
And so our city government has said something. It has taken a stand and is demanding action from higher branches of government.
But what about the rest of us, Madison? What about our other institutions? What about our corporations? What about our community-based organizations? What about our houses of worship?
Supposedly people have been waking up over the past few years to racial injustice. Supposedly we learned things during the pandemic about gross inequities and how we need to think differently and to do differently and to be different. Supposedly we learned that Black lives actually do matter and what that means. Supposedly, we recognized the stolen Ho-Chunk lands we live upon and the historical genocide here at home. Supposedly, we learned that silence in the face of injustice is injustice itself — that silence is violence.
So many corporations today have departments of diversity, equity and inclusion. Supposedly, we learned this matters. Does it matter now, Madison? Many of those corporations issued statements immediately or in the days following Oct. 7 condemning the Hamas attack on Israel. How many of those same corporations and entities have uttered any words since as thousands of Palestinian civilians — so many of whom were children — have been slaughtered? There are many words that could be used to describe the slaughter, but however you name it, however you justify it or defend it or dress it up, the slaughter remains.
We are living in the days and in the moments that will define each of us as individuals. I invite you to jump forward in time, Madison. As you look to your future self decades from now, and then you look back upon this time and what you could have said or what you could have done, forget about how other people will judge you and ask instead, how will you judge yourself? Did you condone the slaughter of thousands? Just how complicit were you? Did you have social or political capital? Did you use it? Did you have the opportunity to say something or to do something to demand the end to the slaughter? Did you say it? Did you do it?
Just because the city of Madison passed its resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza doesn’t mean you don’t still have to do whatever it is that you can do, Madison. What we are seeing is racial injustice on the most severe and extreme levels. We are seeing racially and ethnically and religiously motivated genocide. Where do you stand, Madison? What have you learned? Where is our corporate responsibility?
Corporations, you can get on the right side. Work on diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t just about philanthropy and affinity groups. You can save lives. You can at least speak out to save lives. You can apply political pressure.
You know how to do it. It’s really just a question of whether you want to or not. Or maybe you think the slaughter is OK?
Tariq Saqqaf is former chair of The Capital Times Kids Fund’s Child and Family Development Committee.
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