Difficult Discussions of Racial History: An NPE Conversation with Ashley Rojas

How do we open ourselves to hearing the pain of others without it making us defensive or shut down? By making the choice to hear their pain and to feel our own. NPE’s Paul Swearengin listens to community supporter Ashley Rojas as she shares the pain of a people group that often feels unheard in our culture.

This conversation is challenging, but it’s brilliant. We are people who are called to allow our hearts to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Let some of the mind-renewal happen today as you hear the expression of pain and celebration of someone that might not fit your exact expectation of what it is to be “American.”

Ashley Rojas is an expert in the field of community care and activism as the Executive Director of Fresno Barrios Unidos. She’s also someone who has “put her money where her mouth is” having moved from the Bay Area where she had amazing opportunities, to Fresno, CA to really deal with the mess of caring for people who need the resources to be able to care for themselves.

Don’t miss this chance to feel the pain of those around us and to understand more fully some things we might not understand on our own.

PODCAST SCRIPT: Translated by AI: not 100% accurate.

So how do we have some of those uncomfortable conversations? Let’s, let’s have one today on the nonpartisan evangelicalism, and I’m Paul’s ferns and let me play that open. Where did it go? There it is.

we’re talking religion and politics on the nonpartisan evangelical podcasts. I could stand in the middle of fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voltage. Okay. Challenging the mindset of the partisan evangelical church and asking the question. Is God really a conservative Republican, and does God require his followers to be? Podcasting worldwide on the NPE network at NPE, podcast.com this is the nonpartisan evangelical podcast with the nonpartisan evangelical himself. Your host. Paul Swearengin.

all right. Welcome to the nonpartisan evangelical podcast. I am Paul Swearengin and we, I always like to do on here for, the people who listened in is, I always say I want to give proximity. I want them to hear voices of people that they don’t hear on a daily basis. In their neighborhood perhaps, or just in their daily conversation. And I was recently having a conversation with somebody and it challenged me, made me think, and I thought, okay, that’s a person I’ve got to get on the NP podcast. So here she is, Ashley Rojas, who in her professional life is executive director of Fresno Barrios Unidos and is just a, a very wise person in her own life. welcome to the show.

Thank you. Thank you so much for the invitation. Yeah.

So you and just by your position professionally, we get the idea that you’re working with communities that are different than maybe some of our white evangelical community know about or, or are very familiar with. And so even even as we were getting prepared for the shower is ask you, what is the, what is the proper way we speak of the community that you deal with and work with on a daily basis?

Yeah. And, and what I was sharing with you, was the way that Fresno Barios Unidos and the way that I, in my professional work, talk about my community when asked right. To describe them in, in a way. That fits with public health models or, even philanthropy, et cetera. And we will talk about our community as, a group of folks, often black, indigenous people of color who have been historically and systemically put at risk. And that’s in place of, you know, you might’ve heard folks say like at risk youth or even, you know. At promise youth. but what we really want to acknowledge is that there are systemic and historical factors that have, created the conditions in which our community live, and that there is no innate risk or, flaw in those people. So when we say at risk youth, we’re almost creating a self fulfilling prophecy in some way, right? We’re projecting onto them a deficit. And we’re saying, you know, and this is sort of gets into, school systems will say a lot about like an academic achievement gap, but they won’t talk about an expectation gap. Where do we expect the same level of success from all young people? are we providing people with equitable investments to reach the same goals? but instead we’ll just talk about sort of like the failure, without acknowledging, the inequity of investment. Yeah. The community as a whole and not just the school system.

So, so let me ask you a question, and I apologize ahead of time for sort of the ignorance and flippancy of this question, but I guess the question that a lot of people would ask and talking to somebody like you is, what’s the problem? I think the people that are in sort of the white evangelical. Middle, middle to upper middle class socioeconomic groups. I think they want everybody to be happy and healthy and taken care of and truly have a heart for that, but they just are kind of like, what’s the deal? And it feels like we’ve done a lot and still we have the problems. And so can I ask very gently and lovingly what’s the problem? How do you define it for people that that may not work with the groups that you work with? That’s a, that’s a lot. I could talk for awhile about this in three sentences or less. You know, what’s the problem?

Yeah. so I mean, again, you’ll hear folks say like a lack of, Wealth distribution or, you know, higher crime rates due to poverty and all of these things that are very much so, documentable, you know, issues. but. What we don’t often acknowledge, again, is the systemic and historical, context that is curated communities. Like the one I’m from and, and the, which is the very one I serve. I grew up in Southeast. my mom was 15 when I was born, which . You know, as a result of a whole set of circumstances. and, my family still lives in the same community that I know have the privilege of serving. and so it really is much deeper than, a single problem or even a single generation that we have to actually, understand, the historical context that has created that. You know, towns, cities, States, borders, policies, laws, regulations, and who were they created for? And, you know, for and by and, and who was actually designed out of, those things. And so I think it’s really important to, you know, step into our discomfort, with a lot of love and tenderness because it will be a painful journey for us all to, honestly, Explore our history, our shared history, and then the history that has been, manufactured to uphold a certain ideology. and then the history from some of us that has been stolen You’re saying some heavy things there. The problem is, is dense. If you really want to unpack it. I mean, we can keep doing things like, You know, giving folks bus passes so that they, you know, have transportation. but until we truly acknowledge the root cause of the, of the wound in, in our shared community, and I don’t just mean Fresno, I mean, in our country. where’s, where’s this wound coming from? It, it’s like if you keep putting bandaids over it, right. You know, a festering wound, it’s not going to get better. It’s going to start looking different. You might get a growth over it, but it’s not going to get, it’s not going to be healed. 

Yeah. And I think that’s important. And that’s why, and again, I’m sorry for the insensitivity of the question, but I’m trying to think of, you know, as our, as people are listening to this, sometimes this is where, where their mind sort of goes. And so what is that difficult conversation. Sound like, and, and part of what I’m doing, if you’re listening here, and we have listeners from around the country, so one of the things that Ashley is talking about here is Southeast Fresno. Southwest Fresno are kind of known as the poorer areas of our town. While the people have more resource, has have moved North and North and North as the, as the city boundaries have grown. And, and so we do have. Sort of this feel of you have these left behind cultures that are, are, are struggling a little bit more, but I know even that language is not fair to the people that live in those neighborhoods that, like you said, you love the neighborhood. You wouldn’t, you wouldn’t leave it. You just want to see more opportunity for the people who live there 

for that neighborhood for me, doesn’t mean it looks like our neighborhoods in North Fresno. It means it looks more like itself. it means it, Is as colorful and vibrant and multigenerational and multiethnic and, collaborative as our communities are organically, with more sovereignty, with more resource. because it won’t look the same because we are not. Hmm. 

So it’s not necessarily just about getting a target to come into the neighborhood, which will make everything all right. 

If you can get a target in, I would take a couple of grocery stores, but before a target, and there is a, there is a dearth of all those things . And, and health care are places to go for healthcare and all of those things. And those are valuable and important competent, quality healthcare that values, again, the cultural, orientation to wellness that our community carries. again, it’s when things are not designed with you in mind, that, that they don’t. Cultivate the solution. They’re aiming to. 

Tell me more about that. How do you see that happening or how have you seen that? 

I think there’s a movement in, in health and in health systems and public health, to, acknowledge, Culture, and this is something us, nobody has to need. Those has done for a number of years in Alliance with folks like the national compilers network and sons and brothers is, and locally a group of, elders, under an organization name of, integral community solutions Institute. All of these folks who have been doing this work for decades, since the 60s, like original movement leaders, reclaiming their identity as Chicanos, as Latinex people, as black people, under the same system saying, you know, we are not, of European descent. We are not. Western white people. Our culture is different. We have different ways of engagement, different family structures. and if a health system was never designed with me in mind and my culture and my history and my norms and my nuances, then every time I go to get what I need from that system, I’m having to navigate hurdles, that are there because it was not designed with me in mind. 

Maybe, and this, this sort of plays into a lot of the national narrative of things right now, that maybe we as white people need to understand that being us isn’t necessarily American. You know, that that is not the whole definition of what is, what is American. Is that, is that a fair part of the conversation? 

I think that, Being American, is a whole conversation on its own. Does it mean to be American? who is American, who is America? these are all questions that I think are beyond deserving of conversation. And so, Rich with depth, that it’s a little hard to find a place to start. but again, so that looked like that was painful for you to think about that. You know, I, I thought about, the doctrine of discovery, and even just the claim that you have arrived to a place, and so now it’s yours. my family, has been on this land. Since a song, it’s anybody can remember. I did 23 and me and, I think it’s over 45% native American, to native to the land that is now Mexico, Texas, and California. and so as far as my DNA tells me, I’ve always been on this land, and I don’t know longer than I have, and I don’t think, I fit like the American identity because America, or because I’m older than America because where I come from, the people I’m from are older than America. 

So tell me why. Why does that bring pain for you? And I’m, and I’m not saying that’s a weakness at all. I just love to explore really tender hearted and I’ve worked really hard to cultivate. Well, I hope it’s okay that I ask, but you can always tell me stop pulling. I’m just, I just love exploring this stuff because I think it’s really important for us to hear it. And I don’t think we’ve heard a voice like yours often enough. 

I could point in the direction of a lot of brilliant people that I learned from every single day too. And it’s because I’m choosing to learn. and I’m choosing to unlearn. and I think that that’s a choice more people, would benefit from making is that I’m going to pursue my learning and unlearning and not just wait for it to find me. and so, you know. It just reminds me of that all of our responsibility, isn’t it? 


That we have to continue to learn and unlearn and, live in that place of malleability because we are all sharing space. Right. This is a team sport, no matter how we want to think of it. and so why it brings pain. I think because I have heard a lot of story. I also think because, I carry wounds that have been passed down from generations of navigating. this. Experience of dominance, right? Like we’re going to take this, it’s ours now. It’s this way and this is the way to be, and this is professional and this is not. And, all of that, rule setting, right by folks who are new. it, it lives in, in my body in different ways. And, The more I do my own healing work, the easier it is for me to feel into my community. and into my, generations. Like when I talk to my grandmother and she tells me stories about boarding schools in Texas, and about being punished for speaking her own language. that wounds me because at a certain point, folks in my family and folks in families like mine, stop speaking our language for safety. So we lose our culture to assimilate, and sometimes we reject our culture for assimilation in safety and access to resource. and then some of us. Become the ones harming each other the most. and it’s all the complexity. It’s the complexity of that whole experience, that when I really take a moment to sit in it, it becomes really visceral and I can feel it. Yeah. So even I would assume a term like, make America great again, doesn’t sound like a very appetizing choice and possibility may be for you. I often just want to ask folks in, what does that mean to you? Yeah. Okay. What is, what is your, tell me about your great America and what does it do you get the answers to that? you know, I’ll get a lot of really proud statements of like, you know, patriotism and, you know, protection and where we’re, we’re here to be hardworking people. And, And it’s not often that I’ll push too much further than that because again, it’s about like, am I really willing to do this right now? Especially if it’s in my personal life, on my downtime, and it’s something I can really, I don’t get a lot of choices in terms of I’m having this conversation or not. And sure, I made the choice that this is my work. It’s not just my life, but, In my life, right? I live this. And so other folks get to opt into learning about systemic oppression, about generational violence, about the impacts of genocide and human trafficking as the origins of a country. and some of us just live it. And so, It’s on often that I’ll opt into a conversation that degree, I mean, with friends of mine, yeah, we’ll kick around a can all day. but somebody who I can feel as is just deep in their pride and, I, I’m gonna make the investor, I’m going to make the choice to not. Invest my energy there. 

Yeah. Yeah. I call that the, the people with eyes to see and ears to hear, and if they just start shut down to anything, it’s really kind of a waste of air and space to spend a lot of time talking about it. 

I mentioned this to you earlier too, and so that I don’t hurt myself with anger or frustration. I just try to have compassion for them. I really do. And not in a pitying way at all, but truly, how do I sit in my values and beliefs and cultivate compassion for somebody, who is holding onto an ideology so firmly and, you know, get curious about. You know, they’re holding on so tight to something. and whenever I’ve known people to hold on that tight things, it’s usually because they’re afraid or they don’t want to feel like they don’t know because not knowing things is really destabilizing. so I just try to fall back into my work and, you know, go do something that’s good for me. 

I think it is. A lot. That culture is changing. I mean, just the, the very easy to look around us and say, okay, the baby boomer generation is coming to its end. the millennial generation. Is is, is I started ascending, I don’t know if that’s the right term, is stepping into leadership roles. I was telling somebody this last weekend, you know, millennials aren’t kids anymore. They have kids now and, and so just that is causing a tension. And I think if you have. People who aren’t willing to learn and adapt and adjust, then it does become a, a sort of fight of victims saying, you know, these people are trying to take something from us. 

parenting styles are shifting. I think like, my mom isn’t a boomer. She was again 15 when I was born, so she’s, I think she’s gen X, but she’s married to a boomer. And so as a young, and she didn’t get married to him until I was about 15, which is a pretty tough time to try to step in and, you know, assert authority, for him anyway. And yeah, it was really complicated. He had this whole other way of parenting that was, really dominant space. Like, no, I’m older than you. And I said this, Which I think is true to the culture of like boomer culture is like, no, this is the rules. and number one, I didn’t grow up. Like an average kid. I played parent to my little sister cause my mom was at work and I had to assume responsibility and I’m be on the team. and so, you know, we had a little bit of a culture clash. 

There’s a lot of that going around these days, I think. And I think what’s, what I enjoy about the conversation is. I just think we need to hear, hear the pain, and so I’m, I am sorry the question draws pain, but I think it’s important to hear and important. I think it’s a really hard concept for even somebody like me, Midwestern boy growing up and moved to California in college that. Even the concept of what is what is American. And that in a lot of ways, we sort of say, you have to become us to be okay and appropriate. And, and even that being, a difficult or a difficulty for somebody to here. Then if I’m living as a victim of, Hey, everything’s changing around me and I don’t want it to change, then I become defensive and can’t hear that. So in some ways. So the conversations I’m trying to have with people is like, Hey, let’s lay down our defenses and start to hear why we’re in this clash. Why there people are being hurt by what we do when our intention isn’t to hurt. 

But it is, you know, I just think a lot about just mortality and how much human beings, people resist, don’t want to be adjacent to the, to our own mortality or own fragility. You know, we’ll intellectualize ourselves away from, the fact that our bodies are primitive. They’re simple, and they have an expiration date, and we don’t get to be doing this forever. and so sometimes I just, again, tried to sit in my compassion with folks and. And like, they’re wrestling with like a generational shift. And I think folks are also wrestling with, feeling their own mortality, which I think happens at every intersection of generations. there’s a little bit of a power struggle. and. You know? And I think that’s also because as a, as Americans, we don’t center and celebrate our elders. They just sort of become obsolete or obsessed with youth, with power, with strength, with the, with Abel MIS, right? Being able bodied. and once you don’t have those things, you, you lose. Social or cultural value. and so I wonder about that too. and in my community, right, our elders are sort of the center, our elders and our littles there. There are the heart. like. You know, I canvass, I knock on my great grandmother’s door and sit in bed with her for 20 minutes. And you know, that’s what it’s about. Yeah. And if the two generations could really honor each other that way, that would take away a lot of the fear. And then it’s this idea of, Oh, if I’m on the government Dole, that’s it. That’s a negative thing. And in our boomers in some ways are, are. Headed that way. And they’re getting government healthcare and social security and all those things all need help at some point. Yeah. And if we were lucky enough to not need help when we were younger, hopefully we have the humility when we’re older to, to settle into that help because it’s really challenging. So we have Ashley Rojas with us today. She’s executive director professionally, a Fresno Barrios Unidos. And. Personally, just a super awesome person and a 30 year old millennial as we’ve learned now, and I love, the other day I posted something on Facebook and you came on and pushed back and I was talking about this idea of what if we lived in the radical middle, if we weren’t totally beholden to either side of the political spectrum, but, but could take the best of everything. And. I thought it was a really great concept and you came in and pushed back on me. And so I thought that would be a fun conversation. So what was your pushback on my idea of the radical middle? I think I said yes, and push back. What’s a gentle push? I said, I’d love to chat with you about this. And so, I think, the middle is a really. I think wholesome place to want to be really honest. And I can hear folks wholeheartedly yearning for that place because that place in a perfect world would be the, the place, right? Like right here where everybody fits. and with our current, I think our current place in the way we’re experiencing politics, And the extremism on both ends, certainly. But, the extremism of our current administration, our current presidential administration, makes the middle, a little bit of a cop out. Gotcha. I really can see why people want to be there and right now is not the moment, because, because some of us, Some of us are dying because of this, and so it just makes the middle, feel like a gut punch a little bit. Yeah. because I don’t think saying like, That I’m deserving of resource. I’m deserving of more than survival. I’m deserving of, access to resources that truly don’t belong, to those who are hoarding them. I don’t think that that takes anything from folks who are on the right. For reasons softer than the extremism of the current administration. And so I don’t think you lose anything by siding with those of us who are . Who stand to lose a lot. So to you, the middle is, is not standing with people that need people to stand with them in a, in a season where, so tell me how, how is, how, how are the, the people that, and again, I’m sorry, I don’t know all that, but kind of the, the communities that you’re dealing with. How are they experiencing the political atmosphere today? Because we’ve talked a little bit about that. You and I, and I find, I find the take on that interesting and important for people to know. And I know you don’t want to get too political and your job doesn’t even allow you to get too political, but maybe just how, how that’s experienced. You were telling me about that and I found that interesting. Yeah. We’ve talked a lot about, and I’ll just talk about one, one point. I mean, I could. I could go at this from a couple of different ways, but let’s say, like immigration, right? and everybody will say, like, Obama was doing it too. but, or, and, the rhetoric, right? folks that are being, like dog whistled to, come out of the shadows, right? Like that. and the psychological right. Trauma, that then manifests physically into actual disease in my community. that’s what I’m talking about is that like this rhetoric, and this is, I think what I tried to get out with almost everything, is that the rhetoric being. Certain immigrants are less desirable coming to take from us. They’re sending their rapists and murderers, and then we have a mass shooting in Texas where somebody targets Latino people. Right. so yeah, that, that’s what I’m talking about is that’s, those are the dog whistles. and when you, are reckless in leadership, there’s a massive fallout. we support young people who, in our monthly healing circles will say like, yeah, I don’t even know if my mom, like sometimes I’m at school and I don’t even know if she’s going to be home when I get there. Yeah. Because Trump is threatening ice raids. and our city isn’t a sanctuary city and our County is attempting to put Trump. Language into our County board of supervisors, you know what I mean? So it’s like, yeah. If I’m worried that my mom won’t be home, I probably don’t really care about what I’m learning in class and even if I can focus on it as a distraction, I’m having to battle this thing living in my body, my, my heart. And so that’s sort of what I’m talking about is, it manifests differently. It’s not just a political talking point. It’s not just a debate. It’s not just a strategy to win. Voters like these are real lives. as a woman who, Has done work to heal from sexual abuse. my body is mine. I am sovereign. And to have a administration that wants to take my sovereignty over my own body from me, is really, it’s really triggering. And I have to, step into my healing work again, to reclaim myself, and to not fall into the fear that is being triggered and, that, powerlessness that I know. when your body is not yours. And so, yeah, all of these things are real. Yeah, so I pastored a church for a long time that was mainly white and evangelical and have certainly seen the, for me, the disconnect between what I read in the Bible and extreme right wing politics, I don’t actually see that they line up very well. You have to really stretch some of those verses to make it work. I have many good friends who. All right, love God and love people. And they totally disagree with me on that. But the, the thing that really got to me and has caused it sort of a change in us and in our household is that we thought most of that was benign, that it was off. It wasn’t exactly where being Christ like was, but. It was fairly harmless. And hearing stories like yours where it’s like, Hey, this isn’t harmless at all. This is extremely harmful to people who are American people. when we start to think of people as others and we can dehumanize them and take skin off of them and make them. something subhuman, we can do terrible things like I live just a few blocks from where we put American citizens into camps because they looked Japanese and we were afraid of Japanese people. and we’ve been able to, as a country, engage with that narrative. less so than we’ve been able to engage with the narrative of genocide and indigenous people. Governor, governor Newson was the first governor of California to acknowledge indigenous peoples of this land and to apologize for what happened and apologies. Right? Folks are like, so what if they’re going to say sorry? And it’s not about sorry, right? Yeah. That doesn’t fix anything. But when you speak truth, we can start truly healing, but until then it doesn’t happen. And we struggle with that in a lot of ways. But. The Japanese internment was something that we, we found our way back to you in a pretty quick way. I’m sure Japanese people have a lot of feelings about that, that I, I don’t share that experience. But yeah, it’s interesting to me, sort of what we’re willing to name and what we’re willing, what we’re willing to. I think it’s, I think it’s a good, a good example to look at because I think we all do acknowledge that, that that was really wrong. that the Joseph McCarthy communist, congressional hearings were really wrong. And that’s our capability as a people. And, and I think if we can start to tie that to. well, even now in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they’re looking at, you know, thousands of, of black people were killed and thrown into mass graves and, and start to say, these. These are atrocities akin to anything else that’s happened in the history of the world. Then I think we can start to, again, get, get a little bit humbler in who we are as a people and start to say, I mean for me, when we start putting kids in cages at the border, we have to say, no, we have promised ourselves we would never go here. And so that’s why I try to kind of tie those things together. There’s a quote, I’m going to mess it up, but it’s like until the story is told. You know, from the perspective of the lion, like the Hunter will always be glorified, or however that quote goes. Yeah. But it’s sort of how we tell American history. We tell it from the perspective of the European, Sedler. Right, right. And what that ultimately comes back to is people, you know, well, you have to trace that back to, we won, we took it. And so it’s ours. And now anybody else who says that doesn’t work for me is now an enemy to our culture in some way. Wow. Yeah. But none of us really want to be the, the desk biotic conqueror. No. And nobody wants to feel guilty or shame. and, and I’ve been trying to really sit with, with that and, I’m looking for that language and how to be able to have that conversation with people before they get . Yeah. So, so far, Mark Charles is the only person I’ve heard who can talk about, can talk about white guilt and white shame and how it manifests in, you know. Belligerent rage at times, right? Like this. How do you know this? Avoidance of taking ownership or like we hear the like white lives matter or all lives matter and there’s nothing wrong with being white. And it’s like nobody’s saying any of those things. but we’re, what we are saying is that something happened here. Yeah. Well, I am read the very basic in Fresno where we are is there, was there. We have to acknowledge that at very least there were red lining laws that made sure that people of color couldn’t go North of a particular barrier that happened. It’s documented. And even when it became a legal, it continued to happen for a long, long time. And, and to be able to say and ultimately what I tried to say to my white conservative friends, that impacts the economy of, of all of us, you know, if you want to put it into. A conservative context until we can resolve those issues. Fresno can never be the city that it potentially could be. And so it’s, it’s imperative for my wellbeing, which is a bad context to put it into. But sometimes you’ve got to convince people there’s a reason other than just as humans, we should care. And as Christians, we’re commanded to care from, from my perspective. But. This is, we can’t re, there’s some things that are just never going to get fixed until we do come to that reality and say, Hey, part of the history that I’m, that I’ve inherited is my responsibility to, to revisit and bring healing to so we can really see things change and to maybe to maybe not, or maybe what I’m trying to say is that the way that manifests is not in leadership. Or leadership at the front anyway, that what it looks like to be helpful in amending. this wound is, listening is deepening your learning is, facilitating the healing of those who have been impacted. I think, you know, a lot of this like. Language can still feel like it’s my job to save or rescue or elevate or lift these people. Right. Still the othering. And so it’s like, yes, you’re doing it in a caring way. Yeah. And because again, we’re not asking to be rescued. We’re asking for equitable access to resources that have always belonged to us, and that. The deficits you purse, not you, but that are perceived about us. Right? The deficits perceived about us are, projections of your own mind. I have no deficits. I am wholly capable. I am wholly worthy. And it has been by design that I have been barred from access. and it is by design that, I have been wounded in the ways that I have. Right. And not just whiteness. Capitalism. Patriarchy. the depths of these and the interconnectedness of these things can’t be denied either because not only am I a person of color, Latina, identify as a queer person. I identify as a, as a queer woman. and so when you add in those layers, you start experiencing or noticing more, right? Yeah. And we look at those and classify them not just as unique or. Wonderful, and that we’re all different and we have great things to offer to the culture together, which is the theory of what America is, but we start to identify those as as negatives and, or, or that this is good and this is bad or outside the norm of what is acceptable. Right. Right. Which is . Hetero capitalists Patriot. And what’s so wrong with that? It’s interesting cause I did have a conversation with a friend this weekend and I’m going to recommend he’s listened to this podcast or he’s probably listening right now as I say this, but his, his conversation with me was, you know, at the end of the day, the economy is good and, and that helps everybody. And, you know, black unemployment is at an all time low, as the president likes to say a lot. And. And so again, it goes back to our original question, what’s the problem at the end of the day, why wouldn’t I just vote my pocket book and everybody else’s pocket book and yeah, I wish he wouldn’t tweet. I wish you would quit tweeting, but, but these things are really harmful to people in hearing that that harm is really important in the midst of making our pocketbook decisions. Yeah. So it’s like the ROI. If that’s where your money, if that’s your priority, what do you get and what do you lose and what do we all lose? We lose brilliance. We lose culture, we lose flavor. We lose life. We lose so much vibrancy when when we are widdled away and widdled away and only those that fit this mold can thrive here. Wow. We lose so much of each other and we hide so much of ourselves, and then we suffer. And then we see the health issues we see in our communities. I would also mentioned to your friend that substance use is an all time high, suicide, anxiety, depression, PTSD. like we are a country that is not well. Yeah. And so, is your pocketbook really what, what you’re paying most attention to? because. Folks are in so much pain and, and unconsciously even, that we’re harming ourselves and we’re harming each other and we’re destroying our planet. and I wanted to bring this issue into it because even here locally, we, we had a, a mayoral election. And, and I know that even though, you know, a friend of ours told my wife. Hey, the the North Fresno church elects the mayor of Fresno, we all, and he just said it in a way of like, that’s a fact. We all know that. And, and I know that election was difficult for, for your community. And. And it’s still to be decided as we’re, as we’re talking, we still don’t know the outcome of the election, but we, but I’m trying to figure out how to keep this, keep this from out of, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Good word. but the thing that was, was important, again, as, as you and I were talking about, this is. Like you had young people ready to ask questions at a mayoral forum, and then the Republican candidate refused to show up. And I think even said, didn’t feel safe to show up at the event. And, and what does that mean to. To your group of people in the, in the, the young people that you were working with in that it’s a reminder that folks with power don’t have to care about what you think. And that’s, that’s, that’s where rage comes from. That’s where a lot of like, when you see people really angry, it’s because, we show up, we do our part, we, engage in dialogue and discourse. We elevate our issues. And at the end, you have to be really gentle to us at the end of the day. And at the end of the day… I can even feel you doing it today, and at the end of the day, we, it’s decided whether or not. We’re telling the truth, whether or not we’re worthy of being accounted for, factored in, considered. and so it is, it is a really frustrating process. And even, even before that, when we were doing our, Fresno was looking for your chief of police, you know, brand committed to doing a series of community listening sessions. And, Okay. Law enforcement has, has the culture of law enforcement. and this is all by evidence of arrest rates. You can see that there’s a racial disparity and that there is also a disparity in, over policing of certain communities and others, especially here in Fresno. what communities are considered dangerous and not. and so. Our young people are deeply impacted by this personally, generationally, et cetera. and so what do we do? Show up to every listening session, support young people to step into their healing so that they can speak truth about how they’ve been impacted and what they hope for our community. whole hearts on the table, you’ll, you said you’re gonna listen, here we are. what happens, first of all, they publish a report that hard to read doesn’t tell a story. So we published a parallel report that was everything we heard our young people say in these meetings. Everything our community asked for, things we demanded. they make, they had made a commitment to integrate community voice. the last minute. Again, because they can, they decided to bypass the process till you put in an interim. They put in somebody. And you know, I’ve, I’ve spoken with chief hall, and for me, this isn’t about chief hall. but he, he said, I didn’t apply. I didn’t want the job, and I don’t. Really know why they put me in this position. Right? he says, you know, I think I’m figuring it out now, but I didn’t get it. And, and I think, you know, I have paying attention to what he’s up to and I’m, I have appreciation for some, some of the things he’s done. And, and still then when. That happened, they moved. Even the announcement of the new chief tool, secured, media room in a government building that we could not access. They locked us out of the process physically, like in every way possible. And so when our young people are like. I told somebody, these are the moments where you get no justice, no peace. This is when folks get so frustrated. This is, this is why, because we showed up, we did our thing, we showed up with less resource in more pain, and we still showed up. And so to still be discounted, it just reinforces, right. And then that’s why I don’t get upset with people who, for their own sanity and wellbeing have disengaged. I’m, I’m will, I’m like a harm reductionist through and through. I will not ask you to do something that causes you deep pain. Without the supports and the network, and I don’t have the all the resources to take care of all of my folks to get everybody there. and so when folks just engage, I will sit with them in that and be like, I feel you. Okay. I sit in that too. Sometimes there’s, well, there’s a lot of days I don’t want to show, and it’s, it’s why when there’s a flashpoint, then people start throwing bricks through windows. . Because now it’s, it’s hit, it’s, it’s bubbling over what has been contained inside painfully for a long time. I’ve had to too. Spend so much time and money, learning how to facilitate my suffering in a way that people can hear in a way that creates change in a way that doesn’t hurt myself or other people. and, and, and some people just don’t have to do that. Yeah. So I’m a big believer that, millennials are going to change that. That that you, you see what? And I’m an exercise, I’m just right on the border, so don’t blame me. No, I’m kidding. and, and I’m certain of that, and I’m certain of that there’s, there’s something really special in your generation that’s going to bring about this in a really amazing way. But what you told me is that’s, that’s not good enough for today. That doesn’t help today, doesn’t it? Yeah. It’s that folks don’t get, I work in youth youth organizing, right. And a lot of folks are saying, you know, it’s the generation behind me. It’s not even millennials. They’re louder. They’re fiercer, they’re queer, they’re less apologetic, all the things. Right. and I’m like, and it doesn’t absolve us of continuing to break down doors to make things less painful for them, because I will never ask for a young person, to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do. I would never ask a young person to hold something that’s too heavy for me. and so if I’m not going to be there holding it with them, I’m not going to ask them to do that because I’m going to first wonder why I didn’t pick up my part. and we can all do something. and so I, I believe that too. young people are, Incredible. and, it’s unjust to pass the Baton just yet completely. But to what we should be doing instead is making invitations to collaborate. like if you don’t have young people around your table in your strategy sessions, if you are not inviting critique from young people, You said you’re part of the problem over if you’re over 40 you need to be mentored by somebody under 30 absolutely. And authentically as equals. I think like we do a lot of like adultism like, Oh, you don’t know and you’ve only, how old are you kid? Hot and. And I sit with young people that are so wise. so kind. I learned something from them every single day. so I’m capable, hopeful, persistent, all the, all the things thoughtful, like critical thinkers who are like, Hey, have you considered that? So I’m like, I never thought of that. Yeah. Yeah. And so all of that is why when you hear somebody say. It’s good to be a moderate. What you hear is, Hey, you’re not coming to stand with me today with the people that are hurting. Yeah. What I hear is, you know, or what I think is, I’m glad you’re comfortable. Yeah. That’s a lot of people aren’t, was not that comfortable the place to be today, but I love hearing that. Cause you know, one of the, one of the things that happened in my life was reading. Martin Luther King jr letter from Birmingham jail. I remember I was new year’s day 2017 and it jumped off the page that he said, I’m most disappointed in the white moderate that keep telling us to wait for a better time and saying, you love me. Yeah. And, he said, I thought, Oh, no. West says, justice is what love looks like in public. And so you don’t get to love me in the shadows. You don’t get to love me when it’s safe because I don’t have those privileges. And so you show up and you show up in front of me and before me and you, and you knocked down the people who I don’t have access to because that’s what it looks like to be an ally. allyship isn’t an ideology. To be an ally is a verb. You have to do it and you have to do it daily and you have to do it. Most at most urgently. when you, when you’re feeling like you don’t want to, so in that moment of like, Oh. Killer. Yeah. That’s it. That’s the moment. Yep. That’s when you step forward. That’s when you say the thing, that’s when you say, Hey man, I love you, but that’s not cool. Yeah. That’s not okay. Yeah. And I think we’re in that season a lot where, where that’s, that’s being required of a lot of us and, and for me, from a, from a Christian perspective, it’s, it’s biblical. It’s, if you don’t care for the least of these, you’re not a part of. God’s family. So that should be a driving force for us to begin with. And then the idea that that our society will break down if we don’t find a way to bridge the gap between the haves and the haves not have knots or those that have access to resources. I think as you were saying in those that are not allowed or barred from having access to resources, I think change is really painful for people. Everybody has, again, like I mean human. Every evolution or every shift in the way in which we engage with one another has been painful. And I think organically we are built to avoid pain, right? Survival and six kickin. I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want to. And to change means to step into unknowing, which again is American culture. We’re even more geared toward pain avoidance at all costs. cause we have so much ability to buy medicine or binge on Netflix or you’re so comfortable. Yeah. Yeah. And so, yeah. Like do I want to sacrifice my comfort? Yeah. Right. That that’s a question that when people say they’re my ally, I will ask, what are you willing to surrender. Because you don’t get to be here and keep everything you came with. and change doesn’t have to be, like loss. I’ve been having this conversation with friends, but loss doesn’t have to be, negative. Like I’ve been talking a lot with my friends about like losses, liberation, like when you lose things that don’t fit anymore, you’re free or to find the thing that does. And if we can all step into, our discomfort towards liberation, imagined things we will find if we put down the things that just don’t fit anymore. Yeah. Well. We were able to, like I started a church 10 years ago and we were able last year to hand the leadership of that church off to a young couple that’s a little bit older than you, and it’s been the absolute joy of our life to be able to see the next generation take this thing on and, and run and, and so why wouldn’t I can’t loss be that that we’re giving other people. From our resource to have something better than we had. I, I think it’s amazing. And so I do encourage boomers and even even our older indexers to start saying, how do I, how do I pass on a legacy? Cause I cannot take this with me. So what am I going to do to sow into the next generation to, to see something. Greater than me. And there are so many important roles to be filled because we do need elders. I need people who have seen the last three generation or three decades. Right? I need that. I need that guidance. I need that depth. and. And I need the invitation to learn from and to, grow together. and I think it’s just about like, can we, can we reorganize and can we see ourselves as still contributing and still being, you know, leaders? Cause I think that’s a big thing is folks want to be at the front and it’s like leadership looks like a lot of things, like a lot of things. And it’s not always that. I think you’re not saying. Boomers get out of the way. They are not saying white people go away and let everybody else take over. It’s, it’s, Hey, let’s join together and, and learn something new and, and figure these things out together. Yeah. I’m saying I don’t want anybody to be suffering. Yeah. I don’t want anyone to be scared, because I’ve been scared and it’s. Painful and uncomfortable, and, no way to, to live. and can we all. Sort of hold hands together to work towards something that feels better. Yeah. And it’s a little hard sometimes. And, and now I know ma, no, I know. My friends are going to say, I knew it, Paul, you’ve become a liberal. But you know, when you see Michael Bloomberg spent half a million dollars on an election campaign, and that’s not even a dent in his wealth. I mean, we, we have the resource. The light source is available. And yeah, I was just having this conversation a couple of weeks ago at, you know, Fresno equity, is that the word? and a woman asked a question, I could tell she was, it was coming from place of fear. Like she was really worried, that if we make this an in her language, right, if we make this easier or, them, what, what will I have to, what will they take from me? and I wasn’t my best self that day. And, I said, I’m going to push back on that because what you’re discounting is, is everything it took to even get there. Right. and, I think like we have to stop thinking about it as. As loss or as like us and them or, or we, and it’s just, that whole framework, is what’s gotten us to where we are. Right. this whole like, I need to take as much as I can now, which is the, the phallus, this fallacy of scarcity that capitalism, Necessitates so that we all keep striving, keep consuming, keep feeling like we don’t have enough. so we keep playing the game. when in reality there is beyond enough, there’s beyond enough and nobody loses anything. In fact, most of us will get more. Yeah. and so I just, I really wish, And again, I’ve, I asked myself this question, I asked it on my Facebook is like, how do we hold those with power accountable because they get to opt into accountability. Yeah. Do I believe that you’re deserving of holding me accountable? Do I believe you’re capable? Do I want to, you know, allow this? Well, I think it’s a fascinating conversation and I, and so I’m, thank you for teaching me and letting me learn from you and be mentored by you through this conversation. And I, I do think. and I don’t, I don’t totally know what this looks like always, but I think my, my wife and I have some sort of bridge application and all of this to say to the generations like, Hey, let’s, let’s figure this out together. But, but also I think it’s, it’s important, and I do this a lot on this show, is just to say, you know, in a lot of ways we didn’t know what we didn’t know and we haven’t done this well for a long, long time. And, and so we’re trying to learn now to do that better. And so just in representation of. Of a whole people group of us, you know, we’re, we’re sorry. We’re sorry. We just didn’t know any better and that’s why I showed up today. Yeah. Because I said, if, if that’s where you are, I believe you. Yeah. So, and now we can do the healing work together. I like it. And I think we, we do have a role to say to people like you, that we approve of you and we are proud of you, and we’re excited to see what you’re going to do with Fresno and California and America. Yeah, this is going to be amazing. Thank you. Where were excited? And there’s so much brilliance. and I think I wanna I wanna name that, like, yeah, things are heavy for us. but what’s incredible is that even so, we are vibrant and, playful and alive and, just so magnanimous anyway, like we shined so bright. and that’s what I think it feels like to be in community. and to be in my community. it is the best tasting food. It is the best music. It is. just liberated dancing and movement and play and like, this is who we are. Yeah. Love it. Love it. And I do love that because that’s empowered. And I was talking with somebody the other day about impoverished neighborhoods, and she’s like. Stop it. They’re not impoverished. Just not, we are rich. We are rich beyond measure. I’m rich in ways that I think Americans have been robbed of. which is connection community, you know, multigenerational living, like this whole, like this way of, of being in community. that just doesn’t exist in the suburbs. Yeah. Yeah. and so. W we are wealthy beyond measure and, we are all deserving of cultivating communities that feel better for everyone. That’s great. Well, Ashley Rojas, thanks for joining me today. It seems like we could talk for a lot longer, so you’re going to have to come back sometime. Thank you. All right. And that’ll do it for the nonpartisan evangelical .

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