President and CEO's Letter
In 1970 when the YWCA adopted Eliminating Racism as part of its core mission, supporters called anti-racism our “one imperative.” I love the word “imperative” and its definition:absolute necessity; unavoidable.
Forty-five years later, the issue of racism in our community is still unavoidable. In September, the US Census bureau reported that incomes for blacks in Minnesota fell an astonishing 14% in one year, making our state rank 45th of in median household income for African-Americans.
Year after year, racial disparities in our community persist: graduation rates, homeownership rates, employment, math scores, health, incarceration rates. The breadth and depth of our challenge is breathless. We believe that the fight against racism happens on three interlocked levels – the interpersonal, the institutional, and the systemic. At the YWCA of Minneapolis, it all starts with dialogue. Participating in discussions about racism increases our comfort
level with learning about how racial inequality is perpetuated in systems. Increased awareness unleashes energy to explore ways of changing interpersonal behavior, institutional practice, and public policies that perpetuate racial inequality.
It’s Time to Talk:TM Forums on Race is our annual inspiration for a year full of continued work for equity. In her moving and meaningful talk, at November’s It’s Time to Talk, keynote speaker Claudia Rankine implored us to continue to find time and safe spaces to address issues of race. And she celebrated the fact that a friend and colleague, the leader of her publishing house, gets to work out every morning in a gym that has “Eliminating Racism” on the door.
We are so very proud to be that place.
Since that time we have seen unrest in our community with the shooting of an African American man by the Minneapolis Police Department on the city’s north side. As the US Department of Justice conducts its investigation, and the NAACP and Black Lives Matter have demonstrated outside the 4th precinct seeking answers, we must continue the conversations on racism. We will continue to see unrest in our communities until we as a community can begin to understand both how racism is interconnected with the institutions and systems that govern our society; and how racism immeasurably burdens communities of color with problems of inequity that shape their wellbeing.
We will continue to strongly advocate for change to those polices and practices that perpetuate racism. I urge you all to continue the conversation. Take the energy of the day and explore how to change institutional practices and policies in your workplace, your faith community, and your neighborhood. We are your trusted partner in this imperative, unavoidable, absolutely necessary work.
Using a Racial Equity Lens in All We Do
Early learning is a racial justice issue, because children from lower income families, Latino children, and American Indian children have the lowest rates of kindergarten readiness in the state. Swimming lessons are a racial justice issue. By providing lessons to diverse children we are fighting disparities in drowning rates. Sexuality education and pregnancy prevention are key to an independent future.
We also tackle public policy, advocating for access to quality early childhood education and afterschool programs for youth; researching racial bias in early learning policies; and recruiting and training parents, youth and educators to have a voice at the policy table.
Download Our Voice Winter 2015
Our Voice is a publication of YWCA of Minneapolis. And your voice matters to us! To download a PDF copy of Our Voice Winter 2015 publication, click here.