The exposure of horrific acts of brutality against Black people over the past several weeks and the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown people have forced our society to confront the reality that systemic racism exists and has not been addressed in any meaningful way in America – and the outcomes are deadly.
The harsh realities that Black and Brown members of our communities have been living with for centuries can only be changed through intentional actions by all people and all sectors of our society to advance equity. Power must be disrupted, and the lens through which those in power judge questions such as who is “qualified” for employment or who receives access to higher education must change. Systems that determine a child’s future by their zip-code must change. Lack of access to high quality health care, mental health care, child care, affordable and safe housing, and a range of supportive services for Black and Brown people must change. “Justice” systems that deliver the harshest penalties for Black and Brown people who commit the same offenses as White people must change. Although vital to systemic transformation, ensuring that a certain number of employee and board positions are filled by “people of color” is not alone sufficient to accomplish meaningful change. Real change requires more work than that.
In November of 2019, NPW requested funding from Westchester County to plan for the launch of the Westchester Center for Racial Equity in partnership with the YWCA White Plains & Central Westchester, and other NPW member organizations. Recognizing the importance of this initiative even prior to COVID and the recent outcry, the Westchester County Board of Legislators added this funding to the 2020 budget and it was approved by County Executive Latimer.
The Center will advance a community-wide approach to the problem of racism and serve as a platform for Westchester to effectively respond to the documented need for nonprofit and for-profit businesses, policy-makers and government agencies, and educational institutions to advance racial equity and justice. The Center will be:
While COVID-19 interrupted the planning of the Center, planning will resume in the next two weeks. To fight racism and advance equity further, at the beginning of 2020 the NPW Board of Directors committed to a process of self-examination, to apply an equity lens to all of our activities and to use the expertise of our member organizations to bring issues and solutions to Westchester County.
By employing a racial equity lens to review our Re-opening Workshop series, NPW was able to clearly see that a focus on engaging with the issues of racism and justice is as important as those on safety planning, PPE and budget forecasting. On July 30, 2020 we invite the community to join NPW as we wind up our back to workplace series with: Racial Equity – It’s a Matter of Life or Death. Our journey has just begun.