The killing of George Floyd by method of knee to the neck by a sworn white male officer and three complicit officers who stood by and inflicted further harm rather than choosing to render aid; the video revelation of the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery by white male vigilantes in Georgia; the fatal shooting of EMT Breonna Taylor by police executing a no-knock search warrant in Louisville; and the video-taped interaction in New York's Central Park between a white female Amy Cooper evoking a dangerous false narrative assassinating the character of Christian Cooper—a dramatization she clearly believed would work in her favor—brought to light, once again, this country's sickening and ultimately fatal attachment to hurting, harming, diminishing, and destroying Black lives. It’s past time to dismantle this culture of hatred. Black Lives Matter. It’s past time to end racist outcomes through tangible actions. See our list of recommended actions.
Families and advocates in Minneapolis, MN, Raeford, NC, and Houston, TX join a global community to mourn another life lost in a moment that is painfully reminiscent of too many other moments. Yet this moment is distinct. These incidents are layered on top of each other in rapid succession. They are linked to other police and extremist killings of Black lives and they are occurring on top of the racially disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis of yet unseen proportions. We are sensitive to the fact that the events of the last few weeks impact all of us while taking a specific and deeper toll on our families and colleagues who identify as African American and Black. The incidents and the piling on impose an awful burden, awakening personal, community, and intergenerational trauma, particularly as mainstream news media, some neighbors, even friends and colleagues get so many aspects so patently wrong—mistaking this as a moment, rather than a movement.
These incidents and so many others expose the tap root of racism. They remind us that this is not just about police brutality or bad apples but rather about a rotten foundation; not just about individual actions but also about systems of oppression. We condemn the beliefs of white supremacy that simultaneously feed racism and the denial that it exists. We are deeply dismayed by the dangerous rhetoric and stance that the president is intent on taking while others stand by complicity, threatening protesters and the very existence of Black people while inflaming hatred when we most need truth and reconciliation.
This is a time of great uncertainty for this country, requiring more vigilance and focus on centering racial equity. We are deeply and desperately holding onto a thread of hope that through this struggle there will be a real and lasting transformation toward justice—especially within our institutions that stubbornly perpetuate inequality. We are deeply indebted to civil rights movements and leaders who have planned, acted and sacrificed before us. Still, we're left taking stock of how far we've really come. And have we? We know that there is not a straight line toward justice, but rather a zigging and a zagging with wins and losses. But we must be impatient in our progress moving forward.
Like many of our partners in this struggle, we are experiencing the full range of emotions while we remain steadfast in our commitment to dismantling systems of oppression and building truly inclusive community and democratic structures that are oriented toward repairing harms—material, physical, and psychological—inflicted upon the Black community. We will continue to do this through local, state, and national advocacy and aligning ourselves with anti-racist grassroots and community organizations. We will also continue to support and partner with communities around the country who are intentionally engaged in courageous dialogue and actions to unravel and uproot the historical and present-day impacts of structural and systemic racism in America.
In the fall of last year, Prevention Institute set itself on a course to more deeply address racial justice and health inequity both internally and in our external work. We are taking stock of where we stand in this historic moment and looking critically at what isn’t working—internally and in the world. To make better sense of the current context, we have been reaching out to partners, particularly our grassroots and organizing partners. This will be an ongoing process, but here’s what we collectively see as critical:
Black lives matter. Let's come together to take action.
- Unite! As one environmental justice leader recently told us, “this is a movement moment.” Systemic change cannot be accomplished by one person, or one organization standing solo. Work in solidarity.
- Support grassroots groups, community organizers, and Black-led organizations. Support their agendas and organizing efforts, which have become harder because of the COVID-19 pandemic and have exponentially expanded following the national protests. Support their ongoing existence. Support Black Lives Matter as an organization, nationally and locally.
- Reimagine community safety using safety in Black communities as the barometer for change. Hold elected officials, police departments, and justice systems accountable for racist, violent, and oppressive actions. Dismantle and defund systems that produce racist outcomes; invest in systems, policies, and practices that truly ensure community safety and wellbeing for those who have suffered.
- Engage youth as leaders for change! Powerful young voices and advocates have been at the center of the response to the murder of George Floyd and the protests for justice and equity. Supporting their vision, dreams, and hopes for the future is tantamount to fulfilling our potential as a nation to value all people.
- Vote with a social conscience and ensure that right. Organize—especially around voting and the coming local and national elections. Work to end practices that suppress and disenfranchise voters, particularly in Black communities; mobilize young people to exercise their power to vote and make change; reinstate the right to vote for formerly incarcerated people who have been stripped of their voting rights.
- Enact policies that repair past and reverberating present-day harms to African Americans. From truth and reconciliation practices to monetary reparations to providing access to healthcare for all African Americans, there are numerous policy proposals in education, community, and business development that can lead to tangible strides in advancing equity and racial justice. Fund and sustain them.
- Establish independent entities with youth and resident leadership to oversee progress on racial justice. Where needed, use legislation and funding to strengthen their capacity and authority to hold public systems accountable to closing gaps between racial groups.
- Encourage philanthropies to examine how their investment portfolios are perpetuating poverty, bias, and privilege. Invest to undo past harms and move investments to align with a racial justice mission. Examine hiring and funding practices and find mechanisms to be accountable to the community groups and residents.
- Hold the news media accountable. Check sources and raise concerns about narratives that are twisted to reinforce anti-Blackness, blame individuals and communities of color for issues related to COVID-19 spikes, or describe civil expression as destructive. Counter narratives that fixate on loss of property rather than loss of Black lives. Lift up narratives of youth leadership, community resolve, and systems transformation.
- End racialized segregation from opportunity. Whether in the areas of housing, jobs, environmental justice, education, or the built environment, policies, practices, and investments should close the chasms that keep Black communities from being able to reliably access resources and opportunities to thrive and achieve optimal health.
While we ache from the deep wound of racism, we are heartened to see the righteous multi-city, multiracial, multigenerational protests against these heinous crimes against humanity. We are uplifted and inspired by youth leadership and tenacity. We must stay authentic and intentional in our interconnection. In solidarity, we will channel our resources to make progress toward racial equity and true democracy. We look forward to continuing to work with you and hear from you as we identify and accelerate action on our shared agenda.
As George Floyd is laid to rest this week, we know that our collective struggle continues.