Affirming our Values in the Face of Racial Injustice

The past few nights I have had a hard time sleeping. I am torn up emotionally trying to process the events of the past week as a human, as a dad, as a leader. [Note: That very exercise is one of privilege. As a white man, I’m facing emotional, moral turmoil, but even that I could distance myself from if I choose. I am not physically threatened. My identity doesn’t make me more likely to face a threat while birdwatching, jogging, protesting, sleeping, shopping, driving, etc. like it does for so many of my black and brown neighbors.]

What to say, what not to say. How to defend our values. How to be an ally.

I don’t have many answers, but I do fervently believe that silence in the face of injustice is complicity, as has been pointed out by great leaders like Desmond Tutu and Elie Wiesel. I know what happened to George Floyd was a profound violation of his inherent human dignity. And George Floyd is yet another name to be remembered on a long list of names of individuals who have lost their lives due to systemic racism.

So on Monday I went back to Tabor’s roots for guidance. We were founded in 1968 at the peak of the civil rights movement in response to racial discrimination in housing in Lancaster. A year earlier, our founder, A. Grace Wenger, published the powerful prophetic booklet, No Room In Lancaster. Please read this booklet. It reminded me that antiracism is our organizational DNA.

Sit with this quote from Grace:

Demonstrations are staged when conditions become so bad and when good people show themselves so indifferent that nothing but radical measures will produce results.

Violence erupts when somebody gets desperate. Injustice invites rebellion. Anyone who fears rioting should get to work changing the conditions that lead to protest.

It could have been written yesterday.

Systemic racism is real. Here’s how it shows up in our work, to highlight but a few examples. In the weeks ahead, we will explain these topics further as part of our contribution to education for racial justice.

  • From the 1930s until 1968, when the Fair Housing Act was passed, official government policy known as “redlining” severely restricted access to mortgages in predominately minority neighborhoods. You can get a good overview from an NPR interview here.

  • That history is a factor in why there is a massive wealth gap between whites and African Americans. In 2016, the median white household had a net worth of $171,000 whereas the median black household had a net worth of $17,600, ten times less. This research is conducted by the Federal Reserve System, and you can find out more here.

  • Black and brown households are more likely to be denied a mortgage loan even when their income is similar to a white mortgage applicant’s. The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Associated Press did a study that looked at 31 million loan records a few years ago that you can read more about here.

  • Black people make up 40 percent of the national homeless population, but only 13% of the total population. You can learn more about some of the reasons from the National Alliance to End Homelessness here.

Tabor and our network of partners and supporters have been and must continue to be part of the solution of building a more equitable society. Please join us in affirming our commitment to our organizational values, especially these:

  • Commitment to treating clients with respect and dignity and empowering them with tools to help themselves.

  • Dedication to strengthening the Lancaster County community in ways that unite us and make it an even better place to live and work.

  • Commitment to valuing the diversity of clients and the community and developing knowledge and skills to address their needs.

In closing, I know part of my discomfort the past few nights lies in recognizing how much work I still need to do on my own self. Unlearning biases. Practicing antiracism. Teaching my children about privilege and justice. Showing up. Making the table longer for others to take a seat and share the mic. This is lifelong work for all of us. We can’t be indifferent.

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