United Against Hate

2 min
at 10:43 PM
Michael Kusiak and his son stand in front of a framed poster in the D.C. office of Congressman Eric Swalwell. (Michael Kusiak)

When some of the darker aspects of his town’s past started to re-appear, Michael Kusiak decided to do something about it. The reaction was gratifying.

My wife, my newborn son, and I made Castro Valley our home in 2009. Often when I tell people outside of Castro Valley where I live, I hear uncomfortable hints about its past. There are stories about the KKK. If you were black and bought a house here, your new neighbor may have asked if they could pay you to move out.

I don’t mention these points to create a present-day narrative about Castro Valley that isn’t. You see, hear and experience a diversity that many never could have imagined just 20 years ago. Our neighborhoods and schools are like extended families. I love this town.

But recent events have shaken my pride in what Castro Valley has become.

A few years ago, a woman was caught on video throwing coffee and yelling anti-Islamic slurs at a group of men who had been praying at Lake Chabot. I reached out to Rasheed, the young man who was directly assaulted by the woman. We talked. We became friends.

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In June 2017, racist graffiti was found in our high school. Shortly afterwards, I saw an “Oakland Stands United Against Hate” poster, and I knew immediately that Castro Valley needed a poster, too. They would affirm the Castro Valley I wanted for my community.

In less than 24 hours, I had enough donations to make 8,000 “Castro Valley Stands United Against Hate” posters. Posters began appearing throughout town, images of them started appearing on social media. My Congressman even hung a poster in his D.C. office.

When swastikas were found in one of our middle schools in September 2017, we showed up at the school, posters in hand, and welcomed back our students. Something was happening, and not just in Castro Valley. From Richmond to Fremont and communities in between, posters proclaiming “UNITED Against Hate” showed up in windows in homes, businesses, and schools across the Bay Area.

I want to live in a Castro Valley that finds strength in the failures of its past and welcomes all who want to be a part of its future. I will stand by my neighbors, and I will fight for civility as I do it. I am grateful that a poster has inspired others to do the same.

With a Perspective, this is Michael Kusiak.

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Michael Kusiak advocates for greater local control of unincorporated Castro Valley and works in higher education research policy at the UC Office of the President.

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