“We are committing ourselves to this journey of equity and inclusion because we understand that our fates are woven together, inextricably linked…and that only together can we truly prosper.”
Here is the text of the video message that Community Foundation President & CEO sent out earlier this week.
I struggle to find the words today to communicate the anguish I feel about the pain and suffering experienced by people both locally and nationally that was set off by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, but, as we know, is much greater than this specific incident. And while my words may not resonate with everyone, I feel the need to give voice to what is in my heart.
I am haunted by the words of Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail where he writes that the “greatest stumbling block toward freedom is not the Ku Klux Klanner, but the White moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice”
I have to ask myself…am I a White moderate? Am I part of the problem…is philanthropy part of the problem? These are questions that we have begun to ask ourselves as a foundation as we commit ourselves to building a community where every person is empowered to reach their full potential.
In 2018, we spent the year in community conversations, listening to you to help set our priorities for the next decade. Issues of race, poverty and systems change were at the top of the list. These are systemic problems we are committing to take on.
Equity and inclusion is a central issue that we have begun addressing through intensive training with a cohort of other foundations throughout the Southeast so that both our internal and external processes are inclusive and responsive to the needs of all people.
When I see situations like the rioting play out here in Birmingham, I want to challenge all of us to not just fixate on the violence and anger, but go a step further – understand what has collectively given rise to the simmering discontent over decades which is manifesting itself in these outbursts of violence.
And while violence is never justified, what we are witnessing cannot be reduced to a single act…but is the result of pent-up frustration, powerlessness, exhaustion and inequality. Understanding the complexity of this issue will help us better address the underlying causes. The anger is real and justified, but we must harness this anger in ways that actually changes the course for the better.
And a final word to my White brothers and sisters. While we may not have created racism, we must recognize that we reap the rewards of a system created by our forefathers that tends to benefit people that look like us in ways that confuses merit with privilege. What we as Whites must do is to take a stand…speak out…use our power and status to work towards true equity and inclusion. The worst thing we can do is to silently stand on the sidelines, sympathize without acting, or be indifferent.
As a foundation, we do not claim to have the answers, and I assure you that we will make mistakes along the way. However, we are committing ourselves to this journey of equity and inclusion because we understand that our fates are woven together, inextricably linked…and that only together can we truly prosper.
Help us change the narrative and create a region where race is no longer a determining factor and where all lives are valued equally.
We are stronger, woven together