I’ve reflected a great deal this past month over the tragic, brutal and senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless other Black Americans killed because of the color of their skin and realize there is much more I and Supportive Housing Works must do to understand, resist and fight racism.
Systemic racism is wide spread and pervasive throughout America and tightly woven into the fabric of our society, our culture, our cities and towns. It is imbedded in our educational, judicial and correctional systems and in our businesses, civic organizations and religious institutions. Supportive Housing Works is no exception and as a leader of this organization for the past 14 years I take personal responsibility for these failings, largely through neglect and silence, which is as destructive and harmful as overt acts of racism.
Systemic racism, discrimination, and the ongoing oppression of people of color have created marginalized communities in which people are denied opportunities for economic mobility, family stabilization and general good health. The evidence speaks for itself.
- Whites hold over 90% of the wealth in America while blacks own less than 3 %.
- Black unemployment is persistently double that of whites.
- Blacks represent 13% of the general population but 40% of the prison population.
- Black college graduation rate is 38% while whites is 63%
- Black homeownership is 41% while that of whites is 72%.
- Blacks are five times as likely to become homeless than whites.
- Blacks are 2 to 3 times more likely to get infected, to be hospitalized and die from COVID 19 than whites.
So, what can I and SHWorks do to be a committed and resolute participant and partner in dismantling racism in our organizations, in our communities, in our state and in our nation?
Today, as I start on what I know to be a long awakening journey, I commit:
- To acknowledge my own privilege and recognize both the subtle and overt impact of racism on people of color every day, through reading, listening and engaging people of color and those with lived experience in open and frank conversations.
- To work hard to personally and publicly validate marginal communities and to acknowledge the collective and individual trauma of Black Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color.
- To provide an open and accommodating organizational culture within SHWorks.
- To provide resources to ensure continuous education, reflection and dialogue to create the means to dismantle structural racism within the homeless community in Western CT and throughout the state.
- To develop innovative and effective strategies for homeless agencies in Western CT to recruit, hire, train and elevate volunteers and employees of color and to break barriers for growth and leadership.
- To steadily increase diversity in leadership positions within SHWorks and throughout our homeless systems.
- To add Juneteenth as a paid holiday at SHWorks to be used as a time for reflection and social action.
- To use our influence at SHWorks as a collective impact backbone organization to promote racial equity and to use data to prioritize resources to dismantle racism throughout our homeless system.
- To engage our towns and cities in an ongoing dialogue on dismantling racism.
- To end all forms of homelessness for people of all colors throughout Western CT.
I respect, honor and cherish all of you and value the diverse perspectives you bring in our efforts to house our most vulnerable neighbors. This will not be an easy process for SHWorks, but I commit to you personally to be tenacious, relentless and resourceful and to use the collective power and social capital of SHWorks to effect meaningful impactful change for as long as I stay a part of this wonderful organization that is on a path to be ever more accommodating, courageous, and pathbreaking.
David B Rich
Supportive Housing Works