we have work to do
Dear Evanston —
Words often fail me in the face of anger, sadness and perpetual trauma in our country. Over the past week our nation has experienced injustice on top of inequity. Families, friends and strangers are mourning the tragic loss of Mr. George Floyd due to the criminal actions of a Minneapolis police officer. A family is once again without a son, a brother, a father at the hands of police misconduct. This narrative remains on repeat in America.
Mr. Floyd is the latest in a long line of Black Men killed by police officers. Coupled with the awareness of the circumstances surrounding the murder of Ahmed Aubrey in Brunswick, GA and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, KY as well as last week’s killing of Tony McDade in Tallahassee, FL, and the attempt to negatively impact the life of Christian Cooper, in New York City it appeared to be an all-out war in one week alone on the lives of Black Men and Women.
Looking at the above incidences separately, one could attempt a conclusion that they are not connected in any way. However, data supports that systemic racism and the subsequent inequities all lead to similar outcomes- as experienced in each of these tragedies. The premature ending of George, Ahmed, Breonna, Tony’s lives are a direct result of systemic racism. The attempt of Amy Cooper to knowingly incite her privilege to bring harm to Mr. Cooper was an acknowledgement of that racism. If we view these incidences as anomalies or of no matter to our community and do nothing, we are complicit in this racism. I urge us to not be complicit.
In review of the data surrounding populations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic we have moved in swift fashion to call out the disparities that have led to increased incidences in the Black community. It’s the topic of every conversation as we try to bring resolve to this pandemic. We must acknowledge that those same disparities support the environment where a police officer can cavalierly kneel with all his weight on Mr. Floyds neck killing him as he begged for his life. Again. I urge us to not be complicit.
In response — America is protesting, as we should. Angry unrest accompanies these protests and, in many instances, is leaving communities across the country destroyed. I invite us to not debate what we see as an acceptable or unacceptable form of protest; but be available to debate what’s an acceptable form of policing and public safety strategy. I implore us not to label protestors by their methodology, but by their anguish. As painful as it is to see our communities destroyed, asking hurt people to respond in an acceptable manner only confirms the misunderstanding we have of centuries of pain and disregards the trauma this country has subjected Black Men to over and over again. This added on top of a global pandemic that deeply impacted communities of color first and with greater consequences. Focusing on this aspect of the tragedies does not address the larger issue at hand.
The work of the Foundation is to hold space for the anguish and yet continue connecting resources with need throughout the community. This means lifting up racial equity in our philanthropy and leadership development initiatives. We will continue listening, and asking hard questions. This means assuring that the voice of community members who are most impacted by the disparities we seek to eliminate are at the decision-making tables with us. As a path forward, I invite you to take this opportunity to educate yourself and your families about how this moment is not simply one moment, but a culmination of years of oppression. Have the hard conversations against a fresh backdrop of response now. Without a doubt it’s hurtful to see violence and destruction of property in our community. Let us not allow these actions to be in vain.
Our mission at ECF remains to help Evanston thrive as a vibrant, equitable and inclusive community. We stand hand and hand with you and commit to not being complicit. Let us not miss the message in the larger context of our work. We are here for good, forever, and for everyone. We have work to do and will not be complicit.
Monique B. Jones, LCSW
President & CEO
June 2, 2020