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By Glen Gunderson

Like many of you, my mind is spinning because of international, national and local events that have centered around racism, from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, to the bombing of the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center in Bloomington.

It seems as if racial issues crop up on a near daily basis.

But I was heartened and inspired by a note from Kevin Washington, the president and CEO of YMCA of the USA. He reminded the Y family that we “resolve to be light in this darkness” and that we stand in opposition to hate, racism and white supremacist ideology. 

“As an organization and as individuals privileged to play this vital role, we have an obligation to be purposely and fully inclusive, across all dimensions of diversity,” Kevin wrote. “We should never accommodate or legitimize hate, but we should continue to build bridges with reasonable people who challenge us to consider other perspectives. Unity requires all of us—For a better us.”

I am proud of the work the Y does every day to bring groups together, build bridges of understanding and brighten people’s lives. As I visited our many youth programs this summer, I saw firsthand how intentional we are to teach our future generations — from all racial, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds — how to learn, grow and thrive together in a safe environment.
In the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, we cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future. In our YMCA programs, we are instilling the Y’s core values of caring, honesty, responsibility and respect. This is the foundation upon which we are preparing our youth to be the best they can be – leader, parent, neighbor, citizen.
I know my own perspective, my worldview, is tainted by white privilege. I have never worried about how I may be treated when stopped by a police officer. I have not experienced biases that impact whether I will be hired, promoted or given a raise. I have never lost sleep over whether my children will be given a fair chance in life. As a servant to our Twin Cities community, I try to see through a different lens, void of white privilege. 

And what I see is not pretty.

As we start a new school year, please keep pushing our youth to try new things, learn more about the world and people around them. To embrace similarities, with empathy and humility. And yet just as importantly, celebrate differences. To be kind and gracious, never mean or selfish. 

That starts with us being a light and investing in them. Thank you for making a difference and preparing our youth to enjoy a world where racism no longer exists – that is our hope we must strive for every day.