"Everyone is crying out for peace... I need equal rights and justice." -- Peter Tosh
The continuous and deliberate violence against African Americans by the police has formed a somber blanket over our nation, with the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police, spurring widespread protest across the country and around the world. Black and brown people have been brutalized and or killed by law enforcement repeatedly, and with impunity because of the laws that tacitly support their actions. The vast majority of Americans have had enough of this violence. Thousands in small towns and big cities are giving voice to the grief, despair, frustration and anger that generations of black people in this country have suffered and continue to suffer at the hands of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. Indeed, this latest violence came on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic that has disproportionately affected the black and brown communities, adding to the fear and frustration.
FACES, as a social services provider, has been serving African American and Latinx communities in New York City for more than 30 years. These are poor, disenfranchised neighborhoods with high incarceration/criminal justice involvement rates, low academic achievement, and poor health outcomes. We have seen the injustice that is meted out to the people we serve; we have seen the disparities that exist in these communities and although FACES like other community providers have sought to address some of these disparities through advocacy, education and programs, it is only a band aid on a systemic problem. For real and sustained change to happen, the conversation must be about the stark realities of systemic racism, its permeating effect on the social, political and economic structures of American society and the changes needed to right an obvious wrong. Until we can agree that a nation where the system creates vastly different life outcomes for black and white residents is unjust, then the country will have no peace and will continue to rip at its seams.
As the protests continue, as we mourn the deaths of the many people whose lives were unjustifiably taken, and as we demand justice, we are grimly reminded that racism has existed for hundreds of years. It will not be eradicated overnight. It will take a strong commitment and perseverance by all of us; black, white and brown people to overcome this blight on our nation. There is much work to be done and in our own way we each can be part of the solution. We can start by educating ourselves and our families about racism, acknowledging our own prejudices, participating in peaceful protests, holding our elected officials accountable, advocating for meaningful change, and voting for representatives who share this vision of equality and justice for all.
Violet Tabor, Executive Director