Not Racist Isn't the Same Thing as Anti-Racist
As the world is still reeling from the impacts of the coronavirus, the United States is in a state of civil unrest. Following the viral video showcasing the killing of a Black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota in which a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, protests erupted across several cities in America. Just a few weeks before that, there was public outcry over the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Black people in America are frustrated, angry and tired. Several weeks of a global lockdown, the disproportionate amount of Black people impacted by COVID-19, and the structural and systemic racism experienced in nearly every facet of life is, a devastating combination.
The wounds of America’s past never quite healed and are revealed for the world to see. Many people are looking for answers and a better understanding of how to fight against racism, injustice and societal inequities. The idea of anti-racism has been getting a lot of attention recently as Americans around the country rise up against racism. But racism is far from new in this country, with roots over four hundred years old.
The act of being anti-racist is understanding how years of federal, state, and local policies have placed communities of color in the crises they face today and calling those policies out for what they are: racist. And then doing something about it. When committing to anti-racism work, it's important to acknowledge that people who identify as white benefit from white privilege, and the power that they have in a society that's built around their experience.
As an organization, CCSI continues to recognize the importance of supporting staff in various ways. This thought process was (and continues to be) weaved into the decision to lean into the conversations around racism. There was no hesitation in releasing an internal and external a statement in response to the tragedies that made America sit up and take notice of the plague of racism that has clouded this country for far too long. The statement to employees was followed by an open invitation to participate in an open discussion facilitated by Kesha Carter, Chief Diversity Officer and Nancy Shelton, Senior Consultant of Cultural Competence and Health Literacy. Although emotions were raw and the conversation made some uncomfortable at times, we recognize that changes can only be made when we confront the inequities and injustices that marginalize people of color and have chosen to continue the conversations alternating between large and small groups.
Our Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) change team continues to review and make changes to internal policies and provide learning opportunities throughout the year to CCSI staff and our partners at Monroe County. Most recently engaging in reading and facilitated discussion on the book How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and consistently educating our workforce through the internal newsletter. The REJI team also took the lead in bringing multiple organizations together to begin discussion on recruiting, interviewing, hiring decisions, employee development, and terminations with a racial equity lens for the first in a series of conversations to be led by CCSI.
Individuals and organizations can engage in antiracism education and work by using various online resources. We have created an internal antiracist resource library on our intranet with various readings from the lists published by the New York Times
, USA Today
, and Time
, which also include resources for talking to children about racism.
The work of anti-racism can’t stop next month, next year, or when the news cycle moves on. Right now, the entire country is paying attention to racism and police violence because they have no choice due to changes in work style as a result of the pandemic, and the protests are all over the media. But anti-racism can’t be something people think about only while it’s convenient, it has to be a commitment that you make.