The following is guest post by Jade Merritt, founder and Executive Director of Mikey’s Miracle Foundation, Inc.
Mikey’s Miracle Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to provide sustainable programs and support services to patients receiving cancer treatment and their caregivers in the Baltimore Metropolitan area. In her spare time, Merritt serves as the content creator & editor-in-chief for the lifestyle blog, Charm City Pretty.
Just this summer, white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and members of the KKK descended upon Charlottesville, VA in what was represented as protest against the removal of the statue of confederate general, Robert E. Lee. But the violence, deadly car attack, and melee that ensued had nothing to do with the removal of the statue. It had everything to do with white nationalism in a country where the divisive comments by the commander of chief have energized hate groups to come from behind their white sheets and proudly don their swastikas, openly spewing hatred against blacks, Jews, and Muslims.
“Jews will not replace us!” “White Lives Matter!” and “You will not replace us!” were the chants shouted as the ‘Unite the Right’ protestors marched along the campus of the University of Virginia with tiki torches.
Three people were killed and 35 were injured.
Hatred didn’t just happen to walk down the streets of Charlottesville. It happens to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It is the rhetoric of our current president that has caused the resurgence of hate amongst groups who feel that even as a majority their whiteness is somehow threatened by the advancement of people of color and those of different religious beliefs.
The attacks on persons of color, Jews, and Muslims brings to the forefront the very important conversation on interfaith relations. For this attack was not targeted against just one religious group, but many. It raises the question of how can communities of faith come together in such a time to address the social and racial injustices of our country? Throughout history, it has been times of social and political crisis, where faith is fundamental in providing the support and healing within communities.
When I began the Entrepreneur Lunchtime Series (ELS) cohort with the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies (ICJS) in March, I had no idea how relevant these conversations would be and how it would profoundly affect my thought process as a business leader. ELS is a cohort with monthly sessions that bring together Baltimore based entrepreneurs to discuss the role that religion and ethics can play in building communities. Charlottesville proved to be the perfect case study for this dialogue.
We now live in a society where we are faced with increasing levels of racism, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism while our current administration has neglected to take a clear position on these issues. With the Charlottesville attacks, the president was quoted as saying that there were bad people on both sides... but there is only one side. The side of peace, equality and justice for all. Racism and hatred are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent.
As a social entrepreneur in the Baltimore business community, this is most certainly the time for small businesses to work together with interfaith organizations to promote unity and mobilize our communities around a shared purpose. Economic growth and cross cultural and interfaith dialogue are essential in building community and we all have a responsibility to take a stance. In many ways, we are all affected by what is happening in our country, and research shows that economic growth is strong when social hostilities involving religion are low. Businesses can promote interfaith peace and understanding by positively engaging communities and encouraging inclusivity. Our city needs us. And they need us now more than ever. If the current administration continues to fail to address these social and racial injustices, we must step up as leaders.
I have always believed that the work that I do serves as greater purpose and the impact on the lives working within my organization and those who are the beneficiaries is far greater than any reward I could ever imagine. Now, more than ever, I have the responsibility to speak up on the social issues that currently plague our country and am fully open to being a part of the continued conversation through my participation with the ICJS cohort and within my own community.
While the tragic events in Charlottesville suggests that there is still great work that needs to be done, I still have faith that we can become a more unified country. Now, more than ever, businesses and interfaith organizations must work together to promote cooperative, constructive, and positive interactions amongst members of our communities to bring about the social change that we so desperately need.
The ICJS Entrepreneurs Lunchtime Series (ELS) brings together local entrepreneurial leaders to discuss the role that religion and ethics can play in building healthy communities. In this initiative, the ICJS will contribute the perspectives of local Jews, Christians and Muslims to the public conversation about religion and ethics in Baltimore. Each contributor represents her or his own opinion. We welcome and lift up this diversity of perspectives.