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Two speakers share on "Engaging Communities for Justice" Conference

Cherie Buckner-Webb speaks of liberty and welcome

Cherie Buckner-Webb

Speaking on “With Liberty and Justice for All,” at the Friday banquet for the Gonzaga University Institute of Hate Studies International Conference on “Engaging Communities for Justice” Oct. 19 to 21, jazz singer, businesswoman and state legislator Cherie Buckner-Webb helped folks reclaim those words in the Pledge of Allegiance and connected them with Emma Lazarus’ 1883 sonnet, “New Colossus” in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, which the Gonzaga Women’s Chorus sang.

She is the fifth generation of a seven-generation African-American family in Boise. Cherie is also Idaho’s first African-American woman and first African-American to serve as a state legislator. She was elected to the Idaho House of Representatives in 2010 and the Idaho Senate in 2012, 2014 and 2016.  Her passion is to challenge injustice.

Cherie worked 20 years at Boise Cascade Corp, and six at Hewlett-Packard Corp. traveling as HP’s culture and diversity global program manager.

She said HP found treating people with dignity and respect and paying them equally was a good business practice.

 “I say I live in Boise, Idaho, and I don’t know who’s more alarmed—black folks or white folks,” said the senator. “It’s my goal to change that.”

Her great grandfather founded and built St. Paul Baptist Church, which now houses the Idaho Black History Museum.

Cherie believes in possibilities.  She told of her growth into activism.

During dinner in her family, no one was allowed to leave the table. One evening, her family was sitting at the dinner table at a home where they had lived about a year.

Suddenly her mother stood up, thinking she was seeing a neighbor’s house on fire.  Her father got up and saw the neighbor’s window was reflecting a cross burning in their front yard.

“D@&!,” her mother said, “We have been here a year.  They are late!”

Her mother had her father wrap the cross in burlap bags and put it on the front porch so people would see it and know that “we would remain where we are,” Cherie said.

Her mother was an early activist who broke down barriers for civil rights.

Cherie said her mother’s credo was, “Disturb the peace!  See where there is inequity and disturb the peace.”

She quoted Thurgood Marshall who said, “To protest against injustice is the foundation of all our American democracy.”

Inspired by her parents and other role models, she knew she was to be an activist, to march and to speak out.

She offered some advice:

• Today, I call for civility. We should not tolerate dehumanization.  It’s used in every genocide.

• Know that a simple act of caring has a ripple effect.

• We must stop either-or thinking about race and gender, and recognize we are on a continuum.

• We need to be champions for compassion, ambassadors for humanity and warriors for justice.

• What we do sets the foundation for the fight for liberty and justice.

Cherie’s rules of engagement are:

1) Stand up and commit to act.

2) Show up.

3) Speak up, find a voice and talk to people.

4) Shut up and know when to be still and listen.

5) Make up and demonstrate compassion.

6) Re-up and seek counsel.

7) Look up to find the Power greater than yourself and stay connected.

• Hold the courage of your conviction to do the right thing for the right reason at the right time.

• When we disagree, work for reconciliation.

At the close, the chorus sang Emma Lazarus’ poem about the Statue of Liberty as the “mighty woman with a torch, “the Mother of Exiles” who cries, “Give me your tired, your poor,

your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

John Sheveland points to surge in hate in the world

It’s hard to deny there is a surge in hate in the world and a surge in populisms that target and denigrate a perceived out-group to solidify the group’s identity and immunize it from the perceived dangers of social change. 

With the increase in immigrants, there are more nativist expressions and more anti-Muslim tropes as a result of propaganda by Hindi nationalists in India, white nationalists in the U.S. and Europe, and propagandists affiliated with ISIS in Syria and Iraq. 

While mainstream Muslims reject violent political extremism as un-Islamic, it has little effect on the anti-Muslim sentiment, which is the product of propaganda.

ISIS is about psychological warfare as much as it is at war.  Its goal is to provoke a radical, reactionary response. 

Terrorism functions to instill fear and to prey on our better nature. 

Media exaggerate and over estimate the likelihood of rare events.  Vivid images of death shown by media create an impulse to protective action.

We have turned from valuing globalism and integrating immigrants to looking at our own vulnerability.

Hate studies shows that an “in group” tries to secure its position by projecting on an “out-group.”

Nativist rhetoric about the purity of a nation, race, culture or religion is the intended outcome of terrorism. 

It is irrational, deeply held, non-dialogical and immune to counter examples, so it is hard to deconstruct by social psychology, Islamic studies or engaging with mainstream Muslims.

John Sheveland - Gonzaga University

Workshop Excerpts: “Religious Hate and Religious Liberty” at the Engaging Communities for Justice Conference

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