Your Cause is My Cause

During a recent Zoom call with folks who had just completed CCHCP’s Equity and Inclusion Training of Trainers (ToT) course, the conversation came around to maintaining alliances when there seems to be an unending number of subjugated people impacted by unjust systems. The folks on this call were anticipating returning to train people in their organizations about cultural competency in a “Black Lives Matter” era when so many causes require attention. Though the BLM movement has been around for 6 years and the “struggle” for four hundred, the defense of black bodies in the wake of George Floyd’s killing has been especially activating. Many people are feeling called to support causes in support of black people. However, what about women, LGBTQ+ people, Indigenous People of the Americas, people with disabilities, and others from marginalized communities? Is this their cause to fight? The consensus of the new cohort of Equity and Inclusion trainers on this call was “yes.”

Power is the cement that holds systems of oppression in place. Therefore, when the target of that oppression stays silent until their group is under attack, it contributes to the powerlessness of all targeted groups. On the other hand, groups that follow the Latin “Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno” (one for all, all for one), gain strength through their built alliances. To dismantle unjust systems, we must be there for one another, even when it is not apparent that we will experience an immediate personal advantage.

Do not get me wrong, I’m not suggesting a “wait your turn” approach. That is an ineffective notion and can dilute a movement. What I am talking about is unifying to combat mistreatment, no matter who is being mistreated. There is nothing wrong with looking out for one’s own interests, but people who choose equity and inclusion work (aka EDI, DEI, DI, etc.,) are signing up to look out for the interest of all who are disenfranchised.

Consider the example of the Poor People’s Campaign, a movement suggested by Marion Wright (at the behest of Senator Robert F. Kennedy), director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s (NAACP) Legal Defense and Educational Fund in Jackson, Mississippi. Taking her up on the suggestion, Martin Luther King Jr. announced the campaign at a staff retreat for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1967. Though at the time, the SCLC was focusing on desegregation and the right to vote, King knew that financial stability was a critical precursor. The Poor People’s Campaign was conceived to achieve human rights for poor Americans of diverse backgrounds. For this movement to get off the ground, SCLC and NCAAP members, had to roll up their sleeves and actively advocate for the needs of those in poverty. Sadly, some members of these iconic civil rights organizations resisted getting involved, asserting that it was not their work to do. Though many in these organizations eventually rose to the occasion, we can still see examples of such ill-conceived divisions today.

If you volunteer your time or money to a social justice organization or serve on a work committee that has equity and inclusion in its charter, think through the impact of your presence when you decide to stand up, or the vacuum left when you choose to stay seated. I promise to do the same because your cause is my cause. 

Bryon Lambert
Equity and Inclusion Program Director
The Cross Cultural Health Care Program

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