We are overwhelmingly shocked and saddened by the recent killing of George Floyd that has sparked mass protests around the country. Unfortunately, this event is not isolated and more videos continue to surface that demonstrate how broken our system is and how far we have to go before we realize true justice and equality in this country. The past few weeks have been sobering, and many of us are experiencing a range of emotions including disgust, anger, sadness, disbelief, shock, horror, and numbness to name a handful.
For hundreds of years, there has existed a systemic oppression of Black persons in this country. One would have hoped that we would have resolved these issues by now. And yet, here we are still wrestling with these issues with no clear solutions on the horizon. There are many that see the recent social unrest as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make significant progress towards ending systemic racism and injustice in this country. While we hope that this is truly a season of positive change, hope alone will not suffice. No change can be had without a collective effort to reject racism in all its forms and in all institutions. We each and all must act.
We believe that being “not racist” is simply not enough. Indeed, it never has been. Instead, we believe that in order to bring about desperately needed change, we must be anti-racist. We must be vocal. We must be vigilant. We must be persuasive. We must be better. There can be no sideline and no spectators in this fight. Silence is complicity.
There is arguably nothing more destructive to the individual and collective well-being of a people than centuries of insidious and systemic oppression. Of course, this history of oppression would result in poorer health and mental health outcomes for Black persons in our country. How could it not?
For over a decade AAPSA has been committed to serving all people in our community. It has always been implicit in our mission to treat all persons with dignity and respect. This ethic is so ingrained in the culture of our agency that we have failed to state it explicitly. That must change. We will be more vocal and affirmative in our approach towards treating all persons with decency and valuing each and every member of our community as a human who deserves love, honor, dignity, and support. Rather than be color blind, let’s be color beautiful; let’s be color bold and celebrate and embrace our differences.
Words have never been and will not now be enough. Again, we must act. We must be bold. We must be earnest. We must be tireless. We must recognize that this fight is a marathon and once the high emotions of the moment fade we must not let our resolve wane along with them. We do not know all the answers and it would be foolish for anyone to believe that they do. We do not believe that any one person or even any one group can resolve this problem. It is too vast, too complex, and too ingrained, like an infection that has deep roots in our collective body. And yet, we can and must each play an important part in solving this problem.
While we hope this statement is a start, we must do more. We must commit our cognitive and physical energies to this cause. We must continue to explore ways to be positive agents of change. And this examination must not stop until we have achieved true equality and justice for all people in this country.
As an agency, we pledge to continue to evaluate, adapt and enhance our approach as needed to further positive change in our society surrounding these crucial issues. We know that this is no easy task. We sincerely urge every individual to join us in engaging in deep reflection on these matters that confront all of us. Can you imagine what could be if we each strove to be more than simply “not racist” and instead took a pledge to be anti-racists? If we all stood up and said, “No more.” No more looking the other way, no more tolerating the intolerable, no more passivity. We are encouraged by the response of our community and are confident that our collective efforts will help bring about lasting change. We ask you now more than ever to rise up and take a stand.
We will be active in this fight. We will be a gadfly for positive change. We will not tolerate any form of discrimination. We affirm that Black Lives Matter, while taking responsibility for the fact that equality has been more rhetorical than accurate in our nation, both currently and historically. We will actively take steps to help correct this in our society, and to achieve change by celebrating the incredible value of diversity, recognizing the struggles of marginalized people while doing everything we can to enable their equity, prosperity, and safety in our society both today and for future generations.