The events of the last few weeks have been heart wrenching. The horrific murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, are just three of the most recent individuals lost in the 400 year-long history of violence and brutality against Black Americans. Two of those killings were at the hands of police officers sworn to protect all people, again illustrating the systemic and pervasive nature of a disease so deeply rooted in this country’s origins that we find racism embedded in our institutions, our policies and our own implicit bias. These killings have shocked and angered us, and we recognize this as a critical moment for our Planning Council to stand publicly in strong solidarity with Black Lives Matter and demand and participate in the dismantling of structural oppression.
These recent killings come amid a pandemic that has further exposed the inequities that contribute to a higher burden of illness in communities of color. Because of our involvement in the fight against HIV, the Planning Council community has always been aware of the toll that systemic racism takes on the health outcomes of Black and Brown people.
It is not enough to be an ally in these times. We have an obligation to be actively anti-racist and take actions that will help move this society towards a more just, equitable and inclusive one. In the context of the Council’s work, this means re-doubling our commitment to informing all of our decisions through a lens of racial justice and health equity.
As we dedicate the moments of silence at this month’s meetings to George Floyd and all the victims of racist violence, may we all deepen our understanding and awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. For the white people in our community, that means examining our privilege and implicit bias – to understand why we can go jogging, birding, have a picnic in a park, all without looking over our shoulders or carrying the anxiety that we will be subject to suspicion, or even violence for merely living our lives.
For all of us, it means working together to consciously dismantle racist systems and structures, to build health and racial equity in all aspects of our work, to eliminate disparate health outcomes, and to actively resist complacency about the biases that fuel violence – structural, systemic and personal – against Black people.
The Leadership and Staff of the HIV Human Services Planning Council of New York