Home / Media / ePiñata / February 7, 2017

Letter from HF President: United.

In explaining his support for the women’s suffrage movement, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who I can assure you died more than 120 years ago, once noted:

“We should all see the folly and madness of attempting to accomplish with a part what could only be done with the united strength of the whole.”

Douglass’ support for women’s rights was the result of his belief that the issues of freedom and civil rights were not limited to one race or one gender. The restrictions placed on women’s freedom were an outrage for Douglass because limits on anyone’s freedom were outrageous.

I have been reflecting on Douglass lately and the ways in which he understood and valued the importance of collaboration and alliance-building. His ability to see his struggle on behalf of Black freedom as joined to the struggle for Women’s freedom provides important lessons for us today. Lessons that we are taking to heart at Hispanic Federation.

Last week, when the Trump administration announced its ban on immigrants from select Muslim-majority nations (a ban that has temporarily been lifted by a federal judge in Seattle) the President was acting against American tradition and values. Closing the door on immigrants—especially refugees fleeing political violence—is, quite simply, deeply un-American. But the attack on Muslims has had the effect of bringing Americans of different racial, ethnic and religious groups together in defense of our shared values. That’s why we joined with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a co-sponsor of a rally last Wednesday against the Muslim ban at Washington Square Park in the Village. It’s also why I penned an op-ed with their Executive Director Linda Sarsour that highlights the need to protect refugees and immigrants, no matter their faith. The reality is that when one group is targeted, we are all targeted. When it comes to civil liberties, there is no daylight separating us.

Let’s be clear, building and sustaining coalitions requires a great deal of outreach, organizing, consensus-building and tangible actions that advance the collective's shared goals. In other words, none of this is easy. It demands time, patience and lots of resources. But in the face of an administration that has placed a premium on xenophobic rhetoric and policy-making, we have no choice but to do everything within our power to unite our nation's diverse communities and defend the values we cherish most. Anything less is truly “folly and madness.”