Outrage and Action: Honoring George Floyd’s legacy & dismantling racist systems

Hands forming the shape of hearts

“Look closely at the present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming."
-Alice Walker 

Like you, I’ve had a heavy heart over the past week. In the wake of George Floyd’s killing, communities and individuals across the country — saddled with grief and anguish from the persistence of racism and this latest in a long line of injustices – are voicing frustration, pain, anger, and the deep human need for justice. 

We grieve the loss of George Floyd and the loss of far too many unarmed African Americans whose killings are the result of systemic and structural racism — a force at work not just throughout our history, but in a system that persists to this day as unequal, unfair, and unjust.  

These deaths outrage us. They should. But perhaps they should not surprise us. They are the terrifying outcome of systems that discount the humanity of Black people in America. From education to housing to employment, multiple systems produce inequities that devalue and often endanger the lives of Black people and prevent them from fulfilling their dreams. It is the responsibility of everyone who works in and with systems to address the racial inequities that have brought us to this crisis.

COVID-19 showed us that rapid change is possible. Faced with the prospect of a pandemic, we saw individual behaviors, communities, and immense systems change within weeks. George Floyd’s killing and the response around the world is showing us that change is necessary. We, as human beings, can no longer tolerate this kind of injury to our humanity. As grantmakers, we have the power to accelerate racial equity work, just as we accelerated our response to COVID-19, with the long view on prevention and the deep understanding of systems that produce cumulative race-based harm to people and communities.  We are in a dire moment in our history. But we can choose a better future. California — the most populous state in the nation — managed to “flatten the curve” by working together toward a common goal. All things are possible, particularly in a state full of dreamers, innovators, and leaders.

How would our society look different if we responded to this crisis in the same way we responded to COVID-19? How much suffering could we prevent? How many lives would be saved? We know that a better future — one where California’s communities are healthy, safe, and supportive for everyone — must start with us giving this crisis the urgency, attention, and empathy it demands. 

In memory of George Perry Floyd.

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