Annette Everlove

Kelly Fryer

A doorbell rang on a beautiful fall afternoon in Tucson last week. By the time the homeowner answered, someone had taped a note to his front door. It was covered with hand-drawn swastikas, and in big bold letters it shouted, “You’re a fag.”

Having heard stories from other parts of the country of increased incidents of women and minorities being harassed and assaulted, YWCA Southern Arizona invited local people to share their stories via Facebook’s private messenger feature. More than a dozen people responded within the first 48 hours.

Tucson is a special place and we have also heard stories from people of color and other minorities who report what feels like extraordinary care and love from their neighbors these days.

But we do not live in a bubble. We dare not take civil society for granted. Instead, we must take a stand against bigotry and prejudice of any kind.

We must stand together, Tucson.

The YWCA has been a leading voice for social justice, women’s equality and civil rights in Southern Arizona for nearly 100 years, during which time we have made so much progress. We are not going back.

Each one of us has a role to play in making this community a safe place for everyone. Here are four things you can do:

  • First, when people you know say things, even in a joking manner, that are insulting to women, LGBTQ persons, people with disabilities or a religious or racial minority group, say something. Tell your friend or neighbor why their words are offensive, especially now when so many people feel afraid. Yes, we know this can be uncomfortable. But silence is no longer an option.
  • Second, if you witness verbal harassment, take action. Every situation is different, but, generally, the best thing to do is to ignore the attacker and focus on the person being harassed. Talk to them in a calm way about something else, smile and make eye contact with them. When you ignore the attacker, usually they will stop. If you see a physical attack, call 911 immediately.
  • Third, support We Stand Together, which expands on the Safe Spaces initiative started by the Tucson Police Department to protect the LGBTQ community in the downtown district to create safe spaces in our community for anyone who feels threatened. A community forum and launch event for We Stand Together, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 6:30 p.m., will offer basic training in how to speak up for your neighbors and stand up against bigotry and prejudice of any kind.
  • Fourth, make a pledge to stand together against any effort to oppress or expel those who look, speak, act or worship differently than you do — even if these actions are promoted by our government. President-elect Donald Trump has made one of his first priorities the deportation of as many as 3 million immigrants. We call on all Tucsonans to join us in making our city a place of welcome and sanctuary for immigrants and all marginalized and threatened groups.

More than ever before, we must see each other as sisters/brothers and act as our siblings’ keeper. If any one of us is attacked, we have to look at that like it is an attack on us all. We need to have each others’ backs.

Finally, if you are afraid because you feel targeted due to your gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or any other reason, we want you to know: You are not alone.

We stand with you, together.

Kelly Fryer is CEO of YWCA Southern Arizona. Annette Everlove is the YWCA’s Advocacy Committee chairperson and a member of the Board of Directors.