To Our Community of Supporters,
Our country is in crisis after yet another murder of an unarmed Black man by police in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. In full support of the democratic right to dissent and protest, we join with many other voices of outrage across the country to call for justice for George Floyd. As our African-American staff, family members and communities express righteous anger at the injustice they face every day, we share in it and stand with them in solidarity.
This crisis – police violence directed against African-Americans, and the systemic and structural racism baked into all of our institutions, is not new. Nor is Black people’s daily experiences of implicit and explicit bias, harassment, and oppression. The fact that police in this country use excessive force routinely, including in our communities, is impossible to ignore.
Nevertheless, the actions against police violence now taking place all around the country, and here in New York City, require our full attention. This is no time for business as usual, even though there’s very little usual about life during COVID-19.
University Settlement is committed to advancing racial equity and has been systematically focusing on this work as a central tenet of being a settlement house for the 21st century. This includes focusing on our policies, practices, and staff knowledge and competence; identifying programmatic responses that address inequities in health, housing, education, and the economy; building a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion across our teams and programs; and building a representative team at all levels, including management, staff, and board. Our commitment to speaking up and standing against injustice remains resolute, and it’s been an intentional part of our response to COVID-19.
In solidarity, University Settlement and dozens of our peer organizations have signed onto a statement from United Neighborhood Houses in response to the murder of George Floyd:
“George Floyd’s murder is not an isolated incident, but rather part of a deadly and familiar trend. The senseless killing of black and brown people by police officers is a public health emergency our country has the power to stop. Leaders and policy makers must grapple with our history of white supremacy and acknowledge how power, privilege, and oppression continues to shape daily life in America before we can ever hope to live in a country where communities of color are truly free.
New York’s settlement houses have been progressive leaders in this State for over a century and continue to speak out against racial injustices while building inclusive communities. Today they fight racist ideology in public policy debates from so-called “voter ID laws” to the discrimination against Asian Americans during the coronavirus outbreak to the higher social-distancing arrests and summons in communities of color. During a global pandemic, we have seen the stark consequences of that racist ideology laid bare as black and brown New Yorkers are dying at twice the rate of their white neighbors.
United Neighborhood Houses continue to reckon with America’s racist legacy, and together with our member settlement houses, we affirm our commitment to serving as allies, listening when challenged, and leveraging what power and privilege we have to fight systemic racism. We stand shoulder to shoulder with settlement houses in extending our deepest condolences to George Floyd’s family while repeating the mantra that has shaped the latest iteration of America’s long-running battle for civil rights: Black Lives Matter.”