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CONDEMNING SYSTEMIC RACISM AND EMBRACING OUR SHARED HUMANITY
I. Can’t. Breathe.
On May 25, 2020, these three unforgettable words fell from the lips of George Floyd as he pleaded for mercy. His calls went unanswered as he took his final breath under the weight of those sworn to protect and serve him. In that moment, four police officers failed to acknowledge Floyd’s intrinsic humanity, leaving bystanders and later, the world, to watch helplessly. Sadly, the scene that unfolded on that fateful Minneapolis corner was disturbingly similar to one that arose from Staten Island nearly six years earlier. Eric Garner uttered those same three unforgettable words while being choked to death by a New York police officer with a sworn duty to uphold the law. Both men were unarmed. Both men were black. Both men deserved better.
Tragically, the murders of George Floyd and Eric Garner are nothing new to people of color. They are among a shamefully long list of black lives needlessly cut short at the hands of police officers or white Americans. We say their names - Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Ryan Stokes, and countless others whose lives were assigned no value by those who willingly took them. While some circumstances differed, the root cause of each of their deaths is found in 400 years of oppression in our country that is now entrenched in structural racism. By allowing our country’s history to be ignored, glossed over, or even amended, white society’s advantage and avoidance for racial reconciliation has fueled the devastation, frustration, and exhaustion felt by many of our fellow black and brown Americans. We must do better.
Over these past couple weeks, we have taken time to listen to individuals and organizations, to acknowledge the pain and anger that is being expressed, and to articulate specific racial justice recommendations that will help move us forward together, as one community. Unquestionably, this will not be easy, but if we ground our work in equity and lean in to our own anxiety, it can be accomplished. Now is the time for white Americans to embrace the discomfort they may feel about addressing issues of race and privilege, and to declare our shared desire to help shoulder the burden that has been carried on the backs of our black and brown sisters and brothers from the days of slave ships, to Civil Rights marches, to current protests against police brutality. Now is the time to give space to those who are suffering, while offering support, empathy, and a willingness to educate oneself. Now is the time to speak up, loudly, and clearly to demand substantive change.
For nearly 40 years, LISC Greater Kansas City has been proud to work alongside residents and partners in neighborhoods that have suffered from years of disinvestment, most often communities of color. We reaffirm our mission and commitment to equity and will always stand in solidarity with those residents, community-based organizations, faith leaders, and others who are willing to fight for a more just and equitable society. We believe there are no conditions to one’s humanity and will always support those who take to the streets to condemn institutional racism and demand redress of disparities in social justice, healthcare, housing, education, and economic empowerment. This is at the very core of our work, but we, too, must do better and avow to use our collective voice to champion a more equitable America for all.
For specific racial justice policy recommendations, please click here.
If you are interested in suggested readings, please click here.