Unprecedented. Extraordinary. Global Crisis. Pandemic. How quickly these terms have become clichés as we all try to capture the current moment. And yet, despite how overused they already are, they remain sadly accurate.
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the deep, pre-existing inequities in access to health care, technology, affordable housing, and safe working conditions, to name just a few. Millions of people across the country and around the world are simultaneously grieving the ever-growing litany of Black and Brown men and women killed by police officers. It is in the context of these two crises that many of us feel compelled to engage in long overdue, sometimes painful and halting conversations about structural racism, privilege and unconscious biases.
In the first few months after George Floyd’s murder, millions demonstrated against police brutality and racism, bringing a new wave of energy to the fight for an equitable society that has been in motion for centuries. DC’s mayor had “Black Lives Matter” painted on the street leading to the White House; protestors toppled confederate monuments along with statues honoring Christopher Columbus and other colonizers; colleges and universities renamed buildings; states removed racist images or language from state flags or names; and the racial slur that stood as the name of a national sports team is no more. These gestures are powerful in their symbolism, and inspire hope that tangible actions that produce real, meaningful outcomes will soon follow.
Many white-led social justice organizations, including the RFC, are examining whether they are anti-racist in their practices as well as rhetoric. The RFC has long had the same four guiding principles (all people have equal worth, people are more important than profits, world peace is a necessity, and society must function within ecologically sustainable limits). The Board recently added language to the first principle to clearly state our intentions: “We actively oppose white supremacy, racism, homophobia, misogyny and all other forms of oppression by supporting people and organizations dedicated to eradicating them.”
Language matters and so do actions. That’s why, after significant encouragement from staff and board members, the RFC has committed to exploring how we function as an organization and how to best live our principles in our interactions internally as well as externally with beneficiary families, providers, donors, and ally organizations. We are committed to engaging in this reflection first within the structured environment of trainings and workshops to have the skills and language to ensure we are operating in a proactively anti-racist way going forward.
I’m so proud of the incredible beneficiary families in our community and constantly blown away by the depth and range of movements they represent. I hope the targeted activists with whom we work see us as a trusted and reliable source of support for themselves and their children while also knowing that there are times when we fall short and can do better.
If there’s any silver lining to the pain and suffering endured by so many, it’s the real, tangible change that feels possible in this moment thanks to their and so many other committed people’s efforts.