A message from our founder Dan Heit:
As though the pandemic weren’t enough, the horror of Mr. Floyd’s murder and the week of protests which have followed have been nearly unbearable.
While certainly all lives matter, we cannot be blind, or complicit, with the special challenges and burdens which face our brothers and sisters of African heritage.
It cannot be overlooked that while Black Americans are about 13% of our population, something approaching 40% of Covid deaths have been Black. This sad fact reflects the chronic health conditions which are prevalent amongst people who live in neighborhoods which lack adequate health care, education or even grocery stores with fresh produce.
The litany of lives lost over the past few years represent a name rosary of profound sadness and shame: Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor (shot and killed by police looking for a criminal who never lived at that address), Ahmaud Arbery (pursued and murdered for checking out a home under construction—I’ve done that), many many others, and, most recently, George Floyd. Who cannot cry seeing him pinned down for 9 minutes, not struggling except for breath? For being suspected of a minor crime.
I respect and admire police officers and understand the challenges and pressure they operate under. After the Synagogue murders 18 months ago, close to my home, I thanked local police officers (black and white) who selflessly responded by confronting a murderer with an automatic weapon. Yes, most police officers are professional and treat people equally, but we do not have a rosary of white people who have been victims of police overreaction.
It is inescapable that we live in a world where systemic racism is deeply embedded. It is so very sad that Black families have to have ‘the talk’ with their teens, especially when they begin driving, to caution them to be extra mindful and try to prevent police overreaction.
I understand and empathize with the protests and the protesters. It is unfortunate, and criminal, that there have been incidents of violence and looting (some of it apparently perpetrated by white people seeking to bring blame on black people). Reverend King characterized riots as “the language of the unheard”. It is unquestionable that the vast majority of those protesting are peaceful. And, it is repugnant that some seem to be using this moment of community shock and sadness for their own selfish political purposes.
I know as an organization, we are listening to many voices suffering from oppression and unequal opportunity. Our work is to build better communities, and that means communities without prejudice and with equal opportunity.
One of our key values is that our staff reflects the populations we work with. Diversity is a key value and we are committed to doing better at achieving it throughout the organization.
For those of you participating peacefully in protests, perhaps with clients nearby, I salute your commitment to making our world color-blind and filled with good will and equal opportunity for all.
And, please be safe.