We Have Work to Do

It has been a terrible week in our country. Many of us are reeling from the horror and heartbreak of the brutal killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. I join the demand for the police perpetrators to be brought to justice. My thoughts are with George's and Breonna’s families, their communities, and all those fighting for justice in Minneapolis, Louisville, and communities across the country. And my thoughts are with all of you—especially my Black colleagues, partners, friends—who are angry, afraid, deeply saddened, or numb.

To my Black and Brown colleagues and friends: I recognize your pain and your anger. I stand beside you in solidarity. I recommit myself to the work of anti-racism.

To my white colleagues and friends: we have work to do.

As a white woman leading a national organization dedicated to housing justice, I am keenly aware of the anti-racist responsibility that I hold now and always. The responsibility doesn’t include asking my Black friends, neighbors or colleagues what I should do in this moment, a mistake white people often make. Black people are holding this heartbreak, horror, and fear in ways that white people can never truly understand. As white people, we should support them, stand beside them, and listen to them. But when it comes to the work of addressing anti-black racism we should, to paraphrase the great Toni Morrison, leave them out of it.

Calls for justice, however important, are not enough. We must actively work to create it. As white people, we have the responsibility to work towards dismantling structures of power and culture that uphold white supremacy and from which we benefit, willingly or not. Unless we are consistently and actively working to undo these structures, we are allowing racist systems to endure. Unless we are actively engaged in anti-racist work, our power and privilege insulate us from the impact of structural racism. As an example, I am a mother of sons, but I don’t live with a constant fear that they or their father may be harassed, hurt, or killed by the police. This is a freedom that my Black friends, neighbors, and colleagues certainly do not share. I cannot passively abide with such a terrible inequity, one of many terrible inequities in our country. I hope you can’t either.

As leaders in the housing field, we have an essential role to play. A direct line connects America’s history of racist housing policies to today’s over-policing of Black and Brown communities. The same line connects to racial inequities in housing and homelessness, to chronic disinvestment in Black and Brown communities, and to people of color being disproportionately harmed and killed by disasters from Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Maria to COVID-19.

The pain, chaos and crisis of this moment can feel overwhelming. Racist structures again laid bare. Uprisings during a pandemic. A president stoking racism and division and threatening more violence. We must counter the chaos with action, with concrete steps each of us can take towards justice. It begins with a commitment to the work of being anti-racist. I will recommit to that work today and every day. I will recommit to dismantling racist systems, policies and programs, and to repairing the harm they have done. I will recommit to advancing anti-racist policies.

I hope you will join me in the commitment and the work. I hope you will join me in urging all white people in our lives to do the same.

This is essential work and, as Dr. Ibram X. Kendi reminds us, it will benefit us all. The work will take years, decades, perhaps even centuries. While there are no quick fixes, we can take a step forward every day. Today, I donated to the Minnesota Freedom Fund and the Louisville Community Bail Fund to support the brave freedom fighters in George’s and Breonna’s communities. I encourage you to consider donating or taking other step towards healing and towards justice.

And then, take another. And then another, until together we achieve racial equity and, at long last, true justice.

In solidarity,