On May 25th, the world watched as a white Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd in cold blood, adding to the unthinkable amount of killings and violence against Black people at the hands of the police and agents of white supremacy. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade are only a few of the people who have had their lives taken in the past months who deserve our attention and action.
In response, and in the middle of a global pandemic, Black and Brown people have seen little choice but to take action, peacefully protesting in droves, risking their safety amidst a still-present Coronavirus threat that has disproportionately impacted people of color. Make no mistake: over-policing, lack of preventive and accessible healthcare, affordable housing and economic and educational opportunities for people of color are all interconnected, perpetuating the system of racism and oppression this country was founded on. The history of injustices call for outrage and a commitment to dismantle institutional racism and white supremacy in our work and daily lives.
The Network has been advocating for increased funding for supportive housing for decades, and the refusal by our state leaders to pay the supportive housing workforce- who are mostly people of color- a decent living wage year after year can clearly be seen as another example of systemic racism.
While we previously never considered divesting from police to fund supportive housing, Communities United for Police Reform put it into perspective: for every dollar that goes to the NYPD and corrections, HPD gets 19 cents to create affordable and supportive housing. As the Mayor announced on Sunday that he will commit to reducing the NYPD budget and diverting funds to much-needed social service programs, the supportive housing community is still facing a proposed 40% cut to HPD’s affordable housing budget, jeopardizing nearly 3,000 units of supportive and deeply affordable housing. If the intent is to truly invest in communities of color, there are 58,000 Black people living in emergency shelters and almost 2,000 Black people living on the streets of NYC, being over-policed every day. The City needs a budget that promotes racial equity.
Finally, for me, these past few weeks have forced me to realize I have always used my life in government and nonprofit social services as a crutch – that by working to expand resources for people experiencing homelessness and poverty, that I had done my bit for society. I have not. My white skin allows me not to think every day about the mortal danger my son would face in interactions with the police, or the increased risks my entire family would’ve faced over the past three months. I am trying to sit with that now helped by the Network staff, family and colleagues.
We stand in solidarity with the massive protests and are called to action. We need to collectively dedicate ourselves to the notion that the ‘new normal’ seeks to begin to right the ship of hundreds of years of systemic racism and inequality. We have a chance and duty to reset: we must.
Thank you, Laura