Meryl Ranzer
Aug 7 · 4 min read

I am grateful for the global coalitions and relationships built by Lights for Liberty, and — I am stepping down.

This post has been written and re-written many times in the last few weeks.

Here’s why.

I do not want to negate the positive impact the night of 7/12 had, nor do any harm to organizations who did incredible work to bring attention to the cruel and inhumane immigration policies that get worse by the day. Working at New Sanctuary Coalition I see the all-out war being waged that hurts immigrant, migrants, and refugees, and destroys lives on a daily basis.

It has taken me time to reflect, and see that real harm is created by our silence, when we do not speak up against injustice. When social justice movements are not led by those who are impacted most, they continue the same cycle of systemic white supremacy they espouse to be fighting against.

Lights for Liberty was started the way most of these things are, with good intentions. The five founders did not know each other well, and in some cases not at all. We got connected on a text thread and began a dialogue about what we could do. We were angry and disgusted by what was, and still is happening at the U.S. Southern border, in immigrant detention, and all over the United States. The abuse and mistreatment of children in concentration camps on our watch was the last straw for many. When the five of us made the call for a vigil, people responded immediately. It went viral so fast that we never took the time to slow down and think if we were doing this in the best way to serve the people who were being marginalized and abused by the U.S. government.

The Lights for Liberty founders are four white women and one WOC.

Like so many before us, the white women did what we have been doing since the beginning of U.S. history — take power, and, push out and hurt the WOC.

This kind of behavior is so deeply ingrained that we either don’t see it, or, brush it off when we do because we still think the end justifies the means. Somehow, we convince ourselves we are good “allies.” White women have access to power that others may not have, there are ways to leverage our privilege while standing behind those who are marginalized and taking direction from them.

Instead of walking the walk and listening to the woman of color on our team when she correctly pushed to give the voices of the oppressed a seat at our table, we told ourselves and others that since the events were being run by local organizations and coalitions, they were leadership. We also assumed they were too busy to be on our daily calls or on our of our fast-moving message thread. But, we never asked them. We were doing the same white savior thing we swore we reviled.

White people are so used to being the “norm” that we think solidarity is “allowing” others in, or “giving” them a seat at the table. True leadership is not creating an event, or even a movement. It comes from really listening and following those who are most oppressed and impacted by the systems and structures designed to benefit us.

I thought I could stay with Lights for Liberty, but I do not support the idea of Lights for Liberty becoming a non-profit. The space is full of non-profits run by impacted communities who know more about the fight for immigration justice than we do. Lights for Liberty should be led by one, or a group of organizations who can use the global coalition in the way they see fit. Lights for Liberty has an incredible board of advisors who I hope will recommend the other three white co-founders step down from leadership, as I am now.

We may think it hurts movements to discuss these things publicly, but it is the only way we evolve and change. I am profoundly sorry for the mistakes I made during the Lights for Liberty campaign. We must never stop growing, and it has become clear to me that I have so much more internalized racism to dismantle. White people must dig down and unpack layers, it is the work of a lifetime.

There is much to be done by those who will not accept the status quo and believe we can be a better nation, a better world. Families are still being torn apart, children are in concentration camps, and refugees continue to die at the hands of CBP and ICE. The Democrats keep talking about “strong borders” instead of the injustice of criminalizing people for stepping across an imaginary line because they are seeking safety or a better life.

As a Jewish woman I see too many correlations to the past to let anything stop me. As a human being I believe it is my duty. I will continue the fight for immigration justice with New Sanctuary Coalition.

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