SWAMPSCOTT— Former Gov. Deval Patrick acknowledged the extraordinary social and racial progress made just in his lifetime, but emphasized there are still comprehensive changes needed ahead.
This reminder came in a discussion of issues related to racism, national politics and civic responsibility with state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead, on Wednesday night. The conversation was the first installment of a virtual speaker series hosted by Congregation Shirat Hayam, a Swampscott synagogue, called “We Shall Not Be Silent: Conversations on Race,” which will examine racism through national, Jewish and local lenses.
Wednesday's event was organized by Tzedek LaKol: Justice for all, a Shirat Hayam member-led committee formed by Barbara and Alan Sidman, both members of the congregation, which focuses on achieving racial and social justice within the congregation and local community.
Patrick, who serves as a senior adviser and board member of a private investment firm Bain Capital, talked at length with Ehrlich about how despite the political and cultural moment which emphasizes the need for big, structural change, he believes we should also be acknowledging the amount of social progress the United States has made over the past several decades.
“We are not where we need to be, but we are also not where we were,” he said. “And that is a hard thing in America.”
Patrick said he loves seeing the “younger generation just putting their collective foot down and (saying), ‘We are not going to accept the way things have been,’” but he also advised young progressives and anyone else pushing for change to have open and honest conversations with those who disagree with them. He said he thinks these conversations will help launch the structural change needed.
“I think if we want a just society where everyone has a place, and I'm not saying tolerate the haters, that's not what I'm saying, but there are people who are not as woke, as it were, who don't have the same life experiences, who have different concerns and anxieties. And they need to be heard and respected, and their perspectives absorbed in the same way we want ours to be,” Patrick said. “And I say that mindful that Black people are by no means monolithic. We have a whole range of views, too.”
Patrick said some of the issues which he thinks need to be addressed include systemic racism within the criminal justice system, voter discrimination and disenfranchisement and modern-day segregation.
Acknowledging that he does not speak for all Blacks, Patrick said he thinks the best way that non-Blacks can help in the push for racial justice is to listen.
"Part of living with an open heart is giving up some of the anxiety about what the reaction to your open heart is going to be and taking the step anyway," he said. "I think bridge building starts with listening."
Wednesday's event was sponsored by Arthur Epstein, JCC of the North Shore (Marblehead), Epstein Hillel School, Swampscott Public Library, Swampscott Antiracism Caucus, Swampscott Racial Justice Action Group, YMCA Metro North, Shalom Hadassah, Jewish Theological Seminary, Temple Beth Zion (Brookline), Temple Sinai (Peabody), Temple Ner Tamid of the North Shore, Temple B’nai Abraham (Beverly), Congregation B’nai Israel (Millburn, NJ), Congregation Ahavas Achim (Newburyport), Flatbush & Shaare Torah Jewish Center (Brooklyn, NY), UU Church of Marblehead, and Zion Baptist Church (Lynn).