How We Can Combat Xenophobia

By Ana Maria Archila

As we watch increasingly racist and hateful rhetoric dominate the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, it has become clear the election has turned into a referendum on our nation's commitment to building a diverse democracy - who belongs in America and who should share in our prosperity.

Republican candidate Donald Trump's attacks on Mexicans and Muslims have earned him lopsided support from white working class voters - the same demographic that opted for the economically disastrous Brexit in Britain.

Many of those voters blame the forces of globalization and privatization - backed by conservative and liberal elites alike - for taking away the jobs that sustained them.

What has followed is an inchoate rage directed at all outsiders. The toxic atmosphere around the presidential election has intensified in the last week following the Supreme Court's deadlock on President Obama's executive actions granting relief to millions of immigrant families. The deadlock allows a lower court decision that kept the orders from going into effect to stand, leaving millions of immigrants in fear, in the shadows.

Against this backdrop and to stand against the rising tide of hateful rhetoric, more than 1,500 community leaders, organizers and elected officials from around the country will come together in Pittsburgh this weekend to challenge rising xenophobia and celebrate the diversity that makes our country strong.

The "People's Convention" will bring together organizers, elected officials, artists, performers and members of community groups affiliated with the Center for Popular Democracy and CPD Action, at whose Washington D.C. spring gala Senator Elizabeth Warren dubbed Trump a 'small, insecure moneygrubber.'

The convention follows in the tradition of large-scale gatherings that have propelled the progressive movement forward throughout history. In 1972, the First National Black Political Convention opened a new avenue for African Americans to enter politics. And in 1973, the National United Farm Workers Convention accelerated a campaign to give farmworkers badly needed protections.

As part of the weekend, thousands of people will march down the streets of Pittsburgh protesting anti-immigrant attacks, systemic racism and growing economic inequality.

Also in Pittsburgh will be hundreds of lawmakers affiliated with Local Progress and Local Progress Action, a nationwide network connecting local elected officials committed to passing and protecting progressive policies that make it possible for working families and communities of color to thrive.

The People's Convention will conclude with the ratification of a statement of unity calling for economic, racial, gender and environmental justice.

The gathering will celebrate the recent victories of organizers around the country who have begun shrinking the disparities that have kept millions behind. The minimum wage has been raised above the federal threshold of $7.25 in nearly thirty states. New York and California have more than doubled the federal minimum wage to $15, a level that was considered fantastical a few years ago. Workers have won paid sick days in ten states and more than a dozen cities. And, with half the country concentrated in America's top 35 metro areas, the impact of these local laws has been disproportionate.

These victories stand as a testament to the power of unity rather than us-versus-them paranoia. By lifting up each other, we can achieve a vision that leaves our country stronger by respecting the humanity and contributions of all Americans. The People's Convention will reiterate our collective commitment to that vision, one that leaves future generations with a legacy of love.

Ana Maria Archila is Co-Executive Director of Center for Popular Democracy. The Center for Popular Democracy and the Center for Community Change Action are partners in Putting Families First, a national campaign to rewrite the rules of our economy so that everyone has a chance to thrive.

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