Written by Caroline Peattie, Executive Director
It has been a crushing week following isolating and dark months of the pandemic. We are reeling from the police brutality that led to the senseless murder of George Floyd, and the country has erupted in protest, not only because of his death, but also because of the killing of Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, and countless other Black men and women who came before him. It is no coincidence that protests follow months of a pandemic that have brought into focus the very issues that so many have been fighting against: the racial disparities underlying the disproportionate occurrence of the virus and death rates among people of color. George Floyd lost his job as a result of this virus, reminding us of the deep inequities in our country — lack of access to housing of choice, health care, transportation, protections in the work place, and injustices that most affect people of color and vulnerable communities, not to mention an unequal criminal justice system that leads to mass detention and incarceration of Black men. Further, we now know that prisons are hotspots for outbreaks of COVID-19.
In these moments, I am reminded of how these injustices connect to the work my colleagues and I undertake daily, and how we as a community can and should respond. Our collective work is pivotal to the response. Housing is a key part of the struggle.
What can we do? This is a question that has plagued and pained many of us not just in these last weeks, but for decades. The news has been soul-crushing, particularly when, instead of exhibiting any understanding or leadership, Trump calls for a militarized response to peaceful protesters with the infamous words, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” repeating a 1967 quote from a white police chief cracking down on protests and other segregationist politicians.
I remind myself how important it is for us to make our voices heard — whether by shouting George Floyd’s name, joining protesters, posting on social media, reaching out to our local, state, and national representatives with our voices and our votes — working in any way we can to dismantle the structural racism that allows tragedies like the killing of George Floyd and others, and fails to hold police and leaders accountable. Amplifying the message, so everyone hears and understands: Black Lives Matter. I am recommitting myself to anti-racist work. I live in a county where most people are white, and many who live here don’t understand the history of institutionalized racialism, and the multiplicity of ways in which our whiteness allows us privilege that we don’t even have to think about; whereas many of our Black and Brown friends and colleagues are confronted by the lack of them daily. As a white person, it’s my job to work hard to change that. For white members of our community who want to know what they can do, right now, start with something from this list: https://bit.ly/370uzO0.
We know that our country’s racist housing policies are directly connected to racial inequities and to the disinvestment and over-policing of Black and Brown communities. We at Fair Housing Advocates of Northern California recommit ourselves to our work to address structural racism and the racial disparities resulting from segregation and discrimination. This includes taking a serious look at how we do our work, how we can become more effective as individuals and as institutions, and how we can partner with others in more inclusive, meaningful, and powerful ways. I invite you to join me in this work.