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News - Oh, My!

June 1, 2020

Racism As A Public Health Issue

Racism Is A Public Health issue

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his [her] skin, background or religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Nelson Mandela  

The fact that social justice protests are erupting in large and small cities across our county – at the same time we’ve lost more than 100,000 citizens to a medical pandemic, is unprecedented. Anger, frustration,confusion…. So many feelings. Retired news anchor, Dan Rather, recently shared this hopeful sentiment: “May tomorrow shine its light upon a path towards love, peace, and most importantly justice.”

As a family foundation focused on humanitarian and environmental causes, the recent events in our nation have shaken us. The following post from the Colorado Health Foundation speaks not only to Coloradans but to all Americans:  

Racism has historically and persistently poisoned our systems, institutions and societal structures, resulting in race-related disparities in education, employment, wealth, housing, food access, criminal justice and health care. These disparities are as old as our country.

Racism is a public health issue. If we are to make any progress in our attempts to close the equity gap, we – as funders – must understand this inextricable link and hold it at the center of every discussion about our community investments and community engagement strategies.

What happened to George Floyd is wrong. What’s happening to communities that have historically lacked power and privilege is systematic oppression. The two are deeply connected, and it’son all of us to lift up the starkly different reality communities of color live in every day. These are injustices we cannot – and will not – ignore.

In this unprecedented time,when the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has forced the most restricted nature of society we can imagine, racism is showing up with greater ammunition and magnifying inequities that have existed for a long time – one of the more visible is that COVID-19 is killing Black people 2.4 times more than White folks in the United States.

Those “advantages of whiteness” showed up last week when a White officer kneeled on a Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes, while three other officers supported his act of violence and onlookers peacefully pleaded to make it stop. Mr. Floyd was robbed of his life in broad daylight for all to see. If that isn’t a symbol of what’s been happening to people of color in this country since its beginnings, we don’t know what is.

Instead of working to untangle the web we’ve created throughout history for Black and brown people,we just keep weaving in more oppressive threads, trapping more and more people of color. This is why people are protesting across the country. It’s not just about Mr. Floyd. It’s a collective display of the anguish of a people and their allies. They’re saying “enough is enough,” and we stand with them in that message. Silence communicates indifference and deepens disparities.

We need to hold on to hope right now – but hoping for a “return to normal” neglects the opportunity and responsibility in front of us entirely.  It’s time – way past time – for philanthropies, and the people who run them, to take a hard look at ourselves in the mirror and recognize our own privilege, our own bias and our own misuse of power over the communities we exist to serve. We must stop kneeling on necks.

For communities of color, the impending long-term impacts of COVID-19 on employment, financial stability,civic engagement, housing, education and health are on the horizon. We need to ensure that our continued community engagement does not inadvertently perpetuate systematic biases or current inequities. That is what our work must do.

We know these times are uncertain and disorienting, yet our efforts should not just reflect quick actions fueled by good intentions, but be the evidence of a strong analytical approach around race and socioeconomic status to determine targeted investment of resources in communities. That is what our work should do.

We must reorient our power so that it is shared and acknowledges the value of people’s lives,experiences and perspectives. We must nurture relationships in communities hit hardest by the outcomes of racist practices. And we must follow communities’lead and support solutions designed by and with them.  This is our collective work – our greatest responsibility.

For the full Colorado Health Foundation post – click here