A Call for Bold Action on Racial Justice
The murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the ensuing protests are the manifestation of the deep, longstanding pain of racism in our country. Frustration, anger, and violence at this scale happen when peaceful forms of protest aren’t listened to, when calls for action and reform aren’t heeded, when deep inequities remain after promises of change. While bitter and devastating, the protests are forcing our country and communities to acknowledge the reality of daily, ongoing racism and the lack of progress we have made as a country to meaningfully change the narrative for Black Americans.
HealthSpark Foundation stands with those calling for racial justice, for freedom from fear, for access to the same basic human rights that have long been granted to White people.
HealthSpark’s work to strengthen the safety net system is inextricably linked to the work for racial justice. The safety net system serves a disproportionate number of African American, Hispanic/ Latino, and Native American residents due to systemic, economic, educational, and community inequities. The safety net system itself also reinforces these inequities through ‘color-blind’ policies, a lack of diversity in staffing and leadership, and institutionalized white privilege and power.
Concurrently, the safety net system is an ongoing victim of racist attacks, because of its purpose to serve economically, educationally, and socially marginalized or vulnerable groups. Historic and ongoing policy reforms to curb ‘welfare abuse’ and ‘fraud’ are thinly disguised classist and racist attacks on people who use welfare as criminals, just as calls for ‘welfare to work’ requirements knowingly advance the classist, racist stereotype that people using social safety net programs are lazy. The government’s historic underfunding of the social safety net mirrors the historic disinvestment into poor communities and into communities of color.
The call for racial justice is a call to fundamentally change how our society and systems are structured. But we won’t get there through half-measures- we must be bold enough to demand action from our leadership, and bold enough to demand action from ourselves. As a philanthropic foundation, we take our personal and professional responsibility to work towards anti-racist policy and practice seriously. Our board- which has recently re-written our mission statement to center our work on social justice- is seeking ways to advance equity in all we do, to enter into our work with humility, to seek wisdom from others, and to take our learning into our own hands.
While our hearts are broken and our anger is painful, our commitment to action remains steadfast.
HealthSpark Foundation Board and Staff
Photo: Phil Roeder/Flickr