These are dark days in our nation’s history. At a time when we are trying to respond to a global health pandemic and its disproportionate health and economic toll on families of color, we are witnessing endless injustices and brutality against black and brown civilians. It is appalling and astounding. And the similarities between these two afflictions cannot go unnoticed.
The physical toll of COVID-19 can be devastating with most suffering from acute respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. At the same time that breathe is being taken from victims of COVID-19, we witnessed George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, begging to breathe and later dying in police custody. We also witnessed Ahmaud Arbery, a black man in Georgia, shot and killed when he was out exercising and trying to get a breath of fresh air.
Let’s be clear. The disproportionate health and economic impact of COVID-19 as well as the violence perpetrated against people of color are the direct result of racism. We have a moral obligation to use our privilege and resources to bring attention to the insidious impact that systemic racism is having on people of color. It is only by bringing these issues into the open air that we can begin to dismantle the systems that are oppressing and killing our friends, family, and colleagues of color.
The Social Policy Institute is committed to advancing equity and putting in the work to be anti-racist. We recognize that as a young organization, now is the critical time for us to instill racial equity into the foundation of the institute. We have a lot of work to do identifying key priority areas for increasing our racial equity capacity and infusing it into every part of our operations. We are committed to doing it.
And yet, it feels like it is not enough, particularly when we know our friends and families are in pain. We all share a heaviness in our hearts that needs to be acknowledged. We must allow ourselves the space to feel grief, and at the same time, we must support our friends, family, and colleagues of color. There is no need to make this complicated. We must do a better job of listening.
We need to be here for each other in a way that goes far beyond sending messages like this one. Centuries of systemic discrimination and oppression can only be addressed with sustainable, systems-level policy solutions and partnerships.
We have a long road ahead of us. I am deeply grateful to be on this journey with you.
Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis