Being Anti-Racist: “Mapping Out Our Roles in a Social Change Ecosystem”
“In Minneapolis last weekend, I saw a sign held up by a woman participating in the protest. It read, “All Mothers Were Summoned When George Floyd Called Out for His Mother”. As a black mother of a black son, I heard that call. I felt that call deep in my heart. That call put me on a plane to Minneapolis to stand in solidarity with the people of the community and other mothers rallying around the inhumane treatment of a son...a black son.
While at the memorial for George Floyd I felt peace and compassion. The crowd was extremely diverse. There were churches and other community organizations distributing free food and water. People were kind to one another, we laughed together, we cried together, we chanted George Floyd’s name with our fist in the air, and I held multiple conversation with people from different backgrounds all there for the same reason. I am happy I was able to be a part of something bigger than myself that will hopefully make the world better for our children and generations to come.”
- Lillian Bentley, Career Specialist – MISSION UNITED
In times of tragedy and trauma, it’s difficult to accurately reflect the extreme range of emotions you go through. Anger and sadness coupled with tears and passionate outcries. For those of us hurting, our initial reaction is to connect with our brothers and sisters who share the same pain. The pain that often plagues the Black community. This pain is not new, but a wound that is easily recalled. We’ve asked and demanded that you acknowledge the continuous traumatic oppression of black communities that has besieged this country since its inception. The time for denying systemic racial inequality has long passed.
This is an extraordinary time in our lives and our country. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the overwhelming disparities across the major aspects of our society – health, education, criminal justice, housing, etc. As The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer writes, “Once the disproportionate impact of the epidemic was revealed to the American political and financial elite, many began to regard the rising death toll less as a national emergency than as an inconvenience.” Many on the front lines, Serwer notes, are our meat packers, transportation workers and grocery clerks. In other words, our ALICE population, which skews disproportionately towards black and brown workers.
The time to speak out is now. The time to stand with our brothers and sisters who collectively experience marginalization, disenfranchisement...and even murder. Today, we are clear about the urgent need for definitive steps to dismantle racism and promote an “anti-racist” way of life.
As the pandemic continues and forces companies and businesses to find innovative ways to move forward, now is the time to ensure we infuse an anti-racism framework into our daily lives. Going back to business as usual is not an option. If we are to help create a more equitable country, we must take actionable measures in impacting social change.
Our roles may be different, but we are all key components in tearing down a system of injustice that has existed since the first slaves were brought to this country in 1619. Buildingmovement.org provides an excellent framework reflection guide to help organizational leaders identify and assess their unique equity strategy.
A common question typically emerges after tragedies and the willingness to effect change sets in. So, what should we do next? A major step in that direction is to build your awareness and understanding of the issues. Check out this compilation of “Anti-Racist Resources” for a list of articles, videos, books, podcasts, and more. More importantly, if you are a parent...this list includes resources for you to navigate the discussion with your children.
For those that are ready to hit the ground running, here are four areas where we can engage and lend our expertise and resources:
- We should work with local municipalities, county, and state elected officials in order to advocate for policing policies that promote equity and keep all citizens safe regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. Campaign Zero identifies a list of 8 best practices that have shown to significantly reduce officer related killings (8cantwait.org campaign).
- Anchor institutions are instrumental in achieving racial equity. They are the nonprofit institutions, government entities, and medical facilities and long-standing large businesses tethered to the community. We need anchor institutions to lead in this work by ensuring that their hiring, promotion, and funding practices are free from racial biases. “Anchor institutions can play an important role in uplifting community conditions through a series of multilevel strategies and economic investment, including creation of workforce training and living-wage jobs with good benefits, creating and improving affordable housing, increasing local safety and access to parks and many others.” this week, Bank of America pledged to invest 1 billion dollars to fund racial equity work. As a recipient of their local CSR funding, we applaud them for their leadership and encourage others to pledge dollars for racial equity work.
- Health care disparities exist in the context of broader inequalities. But the healthcare ecosystem consisted of medical schools, large and small hospital districts and healthcare practitioners must actively employ strategies that mitigate the impact of implicit bias. Continued work on addressing Black maternal health must be a priority. According to the New York Times, “Black infants in America are now more than twice as likely to die as white infants — a racial disparity that is actually wider than in 1850, 15 years before the end of slavery, when most black women were considered chattel.” Studies have shown that the leading contributing factor is racism, the lived experiences of Black women is killing them and their infants. Our healthcare systems must address the biases expressed by physicians and other healthcare practitioners. Implicit bias trainings for healthcare providers should be a mandatory practice and the use of organizational strategies that are intentionally designed to mitigate those biases. Training partnerships, like the one we have with Nova Southeastern University Medical School to combat bias is vital in changing the systemic inequalities infused in the American healthcare system. United Way of Broward County’s Women United volunteer, Dr. Haffizulla’s recent work on addressing nutritional education for the Caribbean diaspora is one example of the type of research and work that needs to be conducted on a larger scale, in order to reduce the health disparities that permeate the American healthcare system.
- Let’s do the work to ensure that schools nestled in low socio-economic communities have access to 21st century technology. That teachers in these schools display the cultural humility needed to ensure that the education delivered in the classroom will speak to the genius of each and every child. Tolerance.org provides excellent critical anti-bias education strategies. These guiding principles can help transform our educational system, so that every child succeeds.
United Way of Broward County remains committed in this fight. Our staff consistently holds our organization and our funded partners accountable to the value of each community member and the ultimate vision of equity. There is no “end-goal”. Each and every day we should strive to live according to anti-racist ideals and support each other in this journey. Let’s seize this opportunity to awaken to our collective humanity, confront the reality for many of our brothers and sisters, and finally UNITE around our higher ideals and tackle these issues head-on.