RALEIGH (June 3, 2020) – In this unparalleled, existential moment, it is essential we hear and listen to the cries of the people in the streets, understanding the genesis of the pain and outrage.
Let’s be clear. Our nation’s wealth and power were built upon a brutal history of slavery and colonization. The violence that many people, especially people of color, have suffered for centuries has directly led us to this watershed moment. The undeniable, systemic racism that led to the horrific murder of George Floyd, as so many before him, has also created patent and dramatic disparities in income, education, health, and working and housing conditions which threaten the very lives of people of color, especially Black people, in North Carolina.
Excessive use of force by police is but one of a long list of brutalities inflicted on the innocent by the machinery of an unequal, polarized, and divided society. Evidence of this truism is found everywhere (if we simply remove the silver from the glass and just look). Black Americans are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. The unemployment rate of Black workers is twice as high as for whites. The poverty rate for Black Americans is twice that of whites. Public schools serving students of color are disproportionately underfunded and have operated for decades in an unconstitutional manner in North Carolina. The odds of dying from pregnancy related complications are almost three times higher for Black women than for white women. Now, with all of these systemic defects laid thread bare, the death rate due to COVID-19 is twice as high as for patients of color as that of white patients. So people are in the streets — why isn’t everyone?
As an organization committed to eradicating poverty by advocating for public policies that uplift people and begin to close the disparities fueled by racism and poverty, we understand the anger and frustration of the protests in North Carolina. Now is the time, particularly for white people calling themselves allies, to ask ourselves some difficult questions. Why aren’t we all angry at the injustice and societal inequity that traumatizes our friends and neighbors of color and divides us as a nation? We must be ready to be brave, courageous, and compassionate enough to change the future of our people. For if not now, when? We recognize that we are united in a common life, in which our relationships to and with one another are what will transform our world—for good or for ill. In this moment, we face a choice about what type of transformation we will embrace.
We condemn any escalation of violence by police and support demands for police accountability and reform. Responding with tear gas, riot gear, rubber bullets, and a heavily militarized police force only leads to further harm and distrust.
We stand in solidarity with the rallying cry that Black Lives Matter. We can no longer accept a society built on white supremacy, where Black and Brown people are diminished, disenfranchised, and devalued.
We also recognize that we are one of many organizations releasing statements calling for change, for action, for solidarity when many of our institutions must take an important first step: reckoning. Like much of the nonprofit sector, those in power at our organization are overwhelmingly white people, and we have struggled to dismantle the systems of white privilege in our own internal operations. This is a difficult, but in this moment, much needed admission. In doing so, we stand with renewed resolve to address this issue. We are continuing to work with external racial equity consultants and an internal racial equity working group, developing a diversity and inclusion hiring and retention plan, and offering racial equity training to our staff, management, and governing board.
The time for silence and inaction is over. Words are no substitute for deeds. We can no longer abrogate our responsibility, one to each other. We must open our eyes and our hearts, use our mouths and our minds, and make the promise one does to those one loves, to make for a better life for everyone. No more silence. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever again. By any of us.