The devastatingly long list of Black Americans who have been killed on their streets, in their cars and their homes takes a toll on us all. It appears that America is finally saying enough: no more police brutality, no more community violence, no more racism and no more disinvestment.
We know there are no guarantees. We know that transformative, systemic change requires years—or even decades—of persistence. We must transform our organizations; we must question why we have not done so until now. We have deep respect for the amazing work of the many organizations focused on social and racial injustice that have been calling out structural and systemic racism for years. This moment in our history calls for all of us to stand in solidarity and do our part to address structural racism and create a more just society.
We must do more to understand the deep emotional toll placed upon our Black neighbors and colleagues, as they constantly carry the burden of fear and anxiety for themselves and their loved ones. While it is inspiring to join in multi-racial coalition to protest and demand change and to see statements of solidarity from allies, the question is where have we been before now?
Over the last decade, United Way of Greater Los Angeles tried to do our part by focusing on inequities in housing, education and economic mobility. We shifted our organization towards strong advocacy for policy changes and system fixes that would help the most vulnerable among us. We have done this through incremental policy change as well as campaigns for billions of dollars of increased investment. Nevertheless, we could have and should have done much more.
Now it is time to deliberately and explicitly move our work to address racial inequities and advocate for racial justice. Our homelessness crisis is not just a housing crisis, it is also a crisis driven by structural racism. We must do our part to elevate understanding around the intersection of over-policing, police brutality and the criminalization of Black communities and Black people, and the role that intersection plays in perpetuating vicious cycles of incarceration, homelessness and poverty.
Our commitment to doing more for the communities we love and serve is to:
- Do our part to dismantle systemic racism and advocate for changes in racist housing, education and economic mobility policies
- Address chronic disinvestments in low-income communities and communities of color
- Create an intentional racial equity lens to our work, including articulating our theory of change and how our programs, advocacy, grant making, engagement and organizing best serve communities in our work to end generational poverty in greater LA
- Diversify our board of directors and our volunteer structures to include leaders and voices who will accelerate our focus on racial equity and racial justice
- Engage with our team to identify areas to evolve our internal culture, our policies and our processes to ensure maximum support of our team members of color and greater understanding of anti-racist norms
- Engage our funders, donors and corporate partners around issues of racial justice and use our platform to better articulate a clear set of systemic changes that are also being advanced by our leaders of racial justice and civil rights
- Fully integrate this work into our strategic plan as we lay the foundation for our next 100 years with the celebration of our centennial in 2022
We have a clear mandate and a responsibility to lead in creating conditions to help others adopt anti-racist mindsets and actions, but first we must adopt these ourselves. An end to murder is the barest of minimums. Black lives must be seen, must be heard and must be valued. To quote a refrain from the Black Lives Matter movement, we must all do our part “to imagine and create a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic and political power to thrive.”
United Way commits to do our part to realize this vision. We are proud to take this journey with each of you in the work to build a region rooted in equity and justice for all.