As many of you know, I have recently accepted a position with Community Change Inc. (CCI) in Boston, MA to come on board as their next Executive Director starting in January 2014. What you may not know is that CCI has been in the trenches for 45 years as one of the oldest, continuously operating anti-racist organizations in the nation. Community Change was born out of the Civil Rights Movement and in response to the Kerner Commission which named racism as “a white problem.” CCI has done what few organizations are willing to do: shine a spotlight on the roots of racism in white culture with the intention of dealing with racism at its source, as well as with its impact on communities of color.
Since announcing that I have accepted this position while many have been wonderfully supportive, more than a few souls have asked me why exactly is there a need for an anti-racism organization in 2013. In short, structural inequity when it comes to race is very much still a huge problem in the US. Here are some tidbits to marinate on directly from CCI’s website:
Today, disparities persist as evidenced in the following areas (to name a few):
• Education: The wealthiest 10% of school districts in the U.S. spend nearly 10 times more than the poorest 10% of school districts. Large disparities remain in the U.S. between the learning opportunities and thus the educational achievement of White students compared to African American and Latino students. School integration has declined in the last 2 decades.**
• Criminal (In)Justice: People of Color on average receive longer sentences than Whites for the same crimes. African American men aged 25-29 are almost 7 times as likely to be incarcerated as their White counterparts.**
• Housing: Levels of residential segregation remain high for African Americans and Latinos. Many real estate agents steer People of Color to less desirable locations, compared to Whites; lenders treat People of Color differently than Whites in terms of percentage of mortgage applications accepted.**
• Poverty/Unemployment: African American unemployment has continued to be twice as high as White unemployment during the 4 decades since the Kerner Commission. The economic condition of African Americans is worse today than in 2000.**
A high quality education, a healthy and safe environment, sustainable employment, political empowerment, and outlets for building wealth are the essential opportunities needed to succeed and thrive in our 21st century society. Racialized isolation from these structures of opportunity is very evident in Massachusetts, where structural discrimination, segregation and housing inequity concentrate low income people of color into the most opportunity-deprived communities in the nation.***
CCI’s work in 1968 through to today is to meet the challenge of “the White Problem.”
• We at CCI understand racism to be more than individual prejudice and discrimination based on race.
• We believe that racism occurs when one group has the systemic power to institutionalize its prejudice in the forms of laws, policies, and ideologies that exclude and oppress other groups.
• Historically, and presently in the United States, white men of wealth and property have had this power to create and control the institutions that govern the lives of all who live here.
• This has produced a system of advantage for white people who benefit from unearned privilege at the expense of people of color.
• We believe that this systemic or institutional racism is largely invisible to the white community.
To counteract some of the devastating effects of systemic racism, many organizations provide essential human services to those in need. While we wholeheartedly support this work, our approach is different. We address the systems that create those needs in the first place.
As the executive director, my task is to continue this important and much needed work because as a society we still have a long way to go until we achieve racial parity. My focus is to ensure that the organization is strengthened structurally and to expand our reach. So today I invite you to make a difference, learn about the work that we do and if you are in the New England area, consider coming out Friday, November 22, 2013 to our 45th Anniversary Celebration. We will be celebrating our founder Horace Seldon’s 90th birthday as well as introducing little ole me to the community. Our keynote speaker is anti-racist author, activist and speaker, Tim Wise.
On a personal note, this position is a dream come true for me. It will allow me the ability to affect change on a scale larger than just writing yet utilizing my strengths. So I am personally inviting you to join the men and women who have been in the trenches of change for decades. You can get more info at our website or call Nancy at (617)523-0555.