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Opinion: Think about steps to build a more-just America

Protesters gather on Federal Plaza Thursday, July 23, 2020, after a collection of Chicago activists groups announced they are filing a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department, Fraternal Order of Police, and the federal government, in Chicago. The lawsuit also asks a judge to prevent agents in Chicago from making arrests or detaining people without probable cause and to require agents to identify themselves and their agency before taking either action and explain why someone is being arrested. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Protesters gather on Federal Plaza Thursday, July 23, 2020, after a collection of Chicago activists groups announced they are filing a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department, Fraternal Order of Police, and the federal government, in Chicago. The lawsuit also asks a judge to prevent agents in Chicago from making arrests or detaining people without probable cause and to require agents to identify themselves and their agency before taking either action and explain why someone is being arrested. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast

Credit: Charles Rex Arbogast

Thank you for your calls, questions and offers of support over the last few weeks as we navigate the novel Coronavirus pandemic, the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks, among others; and the exposure of systemic and institutional racism in our country.

This is truly an unprecedented time that we find ourselves in, and YWCA of Greater Atlanta is called to address this moment. With a mission to “eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all,” we have been on this course since our founding on the campus of Spelman College in 1902.

YWCA of Greater Atlanta firmly believes that sustainable change and understanding can only occur with the sharing of ideas and perspectives through meaningful dialogue and conversations. Over the years, we have hosted our annual “Conversations” event to spark dialogue on race and equity.

Join us on September 16 as we kick off a series of conversations on race, equity and anti-racism with renowned author, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. Dr. Kendi is the author The New York Times bestseller, “How To Be An Antiracist.” This event will shepherd in a series of conversations where we dive deeply into the impacts of systemic and structural racism. We encourage you to be a part of these pivotal conversations.

Sharmen May Gowens
Sharmen May Gowens

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

So, what else can you do? Here are a few ideas:

1. Be intentionally, unapologetically and intellectually curious about the effects of 400 years of enslavement on generations of Black people.

2. Be our allies – Not just “for” us, but “with” us. You say you are not a racist. You have to be antiracist. There is a difference – learn and embrace it.

3. Don’t be a “racial philanthropist” in the hopes that giving money relieves you of any further responsibility. While organizations like ours need your financial support, we also need you to take a bold stand against systemic racism.

4. Educate yourself – Don’t rely on your Black friends and colleagues to do it for you. There are many books available: “White Fragility” by Robin D’Angelo and “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., among others.

Here’s a link to powerful and thoughtful essays and writings:

https://www.businessinsider.com/essays-and-works-of-journalism-by-black-authors-on-racism-2020-6

5. Understand “privilege” and face the hard, ugly truth that this privilege was built upon an unfair system, created by White men who unfairly intended to tip the scales in their favor. Privilege based on Whiteness continues to inform and regulate our lives today.

Now is the time to pull back the curtain and recognize who we are: a nation built on injustices and discriminatory laws; a nation built on the backs of forced unpaid labor and an unquestioned disregard for Black and Brown people; and a nation that has, for years, avoided this truth by encouraging color-blindness and discouraging conversations about race.

In closing, we hope that we can rely on you to envision a new and just America and think about the steps you can take to make it so. Now is the time to be hopeful and vigilant.

We believe that Black lives matter. Let’s live like it does.

Sharmen May Gowens is CEO, YWCA of Greater Atlanta. Members of their Board of Directors also signed this piece: Sarah Lattimer Irvin, Cynthia Neal Spence, Jennifer Winn, Tyan Keyes-Ballard, Bari Love, Carla Dillard Homer, Diamond Ford, Monica Hayes, Janin Hutcheson, Ashani Johnson Turbes, Dionne Mack, Abigail McCann, Lani Mauriello, Barbara Miller, Katharine Mobley, Tameka Rish, Nita Sardana, Ingrid Saunders Jones, Ann Stallard, Rukiya Thomas, Bonika Wilson and Ayla Zamangil.