The horrific murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police has rightfully sparked a wave of local, national, and international outrage. As we grieve this tragic loss of life and denial of human dignity, we find ourselves at a pivotal moment.
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC people) have always known that we are a nation built on stolen land with stolen lives and labor; a nation that systematically oppresses BIPOC people and concentrates wealth and opportunity in the hands of a few. Now, many more white people are waking up to the reality that centuries of institutional racism and white supremacy have brought us to this moment.
We must dismantle this shameful legacy. We can no longer silently accept and participate in the “old normal,” in which BIPOC people are denied freedom, justice, and life itself. We must envision and take an active role in creating a new normal – one in which all people are valued, respected, celebrated, and included in the ample abundance and opportunity that surround us.
In the coming months, we will reach out and invite all of our stakeholders into dialogue about what it means for Our Saviour’s Community Services to be an anti-racist organization. What we know for certain is that we must keep moving toward this goal, together, with strength and conviction.
To get there, we will need to be honest about the old normal and our complicity in maintaining it. For those of us who are white this will mean:
- Recognizing how we have benefited from systems of oppression and discrimination
- Recognizing and challenging beliefs that our culture of oppression has taught us
- Recognizing that our well-intended efforts to help others may have distracted us from larger issues and contributed to systems that actually hold injustice in place
- Stepping back, listening to the voices of BIPOC people, and learning from them
- Sharing power in ways that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable
What this means for our programs is that we must work to influence the larger systems that affect our students, residents, and guests. We are proud of the work we do meeting real needs in our community. However, it isn’t enough to teach immigrants English when structural racism and discrimination prevent them from finding meaningful, life-sustaining work. It isn’t enough to provide temporary shelter and apartments for vulnerable homeless adults when they are routinely stigmatized and denied access to the services they need to thrive.
Finally, within our organization, we know that we have unintentionally perpetuated institutional racism and white supremacy. As a predominantly white-led nonprofit that serves primarily BIPOC communities, we must examine our leadership structure and practices, center client voices, and intentionally support the work of BIPOC leaders within our organization and in the community.
This is long, hard work. We don’t expect change to come quickly or easily. But we also recognize in this moment a unique and precious opportunity to make sure something transformational emerges from the fire and passion of the past two weeks. We can do better. We must do better. Let’s seize this moment and move forward, together.
With determination and hope,
David Fey, Interim Executive Director
On behalf of the Board of Directors and Staff of Our Saviour’s Community Services