Three prominent voices in the racial justice movement joined NLIHC in 2020 for a webinar series to discuss racial equity and housing justice during and after the coronavirus pandemic: Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist and Stamped from the Beginning; Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the New York Times Magazine’s “The 1619 Project;” and Ta-Nehisi Coates, National Book Award winner for Between the World and Me. These live-streamed discussions were open to the public and attended by thousands.
While each guest speaker shared their own unique perspective, three themes came from the series: 1) the U.S. has a deep history of racism, and racist housing policies have played a key role in furthering its harm, still deeply experienced today; 2) the coronavirus pandemic is both exposing and exacerbating structural racism in the U.S., but also providing an opportunity to address it; and 3) change is possible.
Dr. Kendi kicked off the series in May with NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel to discuss what it means to be antiracist and concrete steps the housing community can take to advance antiracist housing policies and programs. Dr. Kendi described being antiracist as a discipline rather than a definition of someone and emphasized the importance of recognizing and naming racism where it exists in order to create real change. He encouraged housing advocates to utilize data to evaluate policies as racist or antiracist, to ensure government funds get to the people most in need, and to make certain that people directly impacted are included every step of the way.
Nikole Hannah-Jones spoke with NLIHC Board Chair Marla Newman in July during an especially critical moment during the Black Lives Matter movement following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Ms. Hannah-Jones brought her deep understanding of the intersection of housing and racial justice to the discussion, talking at length about the importance of where someone lives, housing segregation and fair housing policies, the racial wealth gap, and what must happen to undo white supremacy and systemic racism in our country. She called housing segregation an architected inequality and said that, since it was created through government policy, it must also be undone the same way.
Ta-Nehisi Coates closed out the 2020 racial justice webinar series with NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel. Mr. Coates built on the points Dr. Kendi and Hannah-Jones made about the history of racist housing policies in the U.S. and ways it has impacted communities of color, particularly new during the COVID-19 pandemic. He discussed the fallout from the 2016 presidential election, the momentum of racial justice movements against police violence that grew in 2020, the possibilities ahead with the 2020 presidential election, and actions we need to take to dismantle structural racism.