A Center for Nonviolence call to action to traditionally white institutions and organizations

This call to action was submitted by the Center for Nonviolence in Fort Wayne.

The Center for Nonviolence stands in solidarity with the Black community and mourns the loss of Elijah McClain, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless other Black people who have been brutalized or killed at the hands of the police. This statement has been written collectively, in the spirit of the Center for Nonviolence, by white and non-Black people of color on staff and our Coordinating Panel. The process of writing something like this, as a collective body of more than twenty people, has indeed caused a significant and noticeable delay in us contributing to the rich conversations that have been ongoing these past few months. We apologize if our delay in releasing a formal statement on this matter has hurt or offended anyone. Please know that throughout this process of considering what to say we have also been working internally to put action behind the words we wanted to share.

In the midst of a global pandemic where Black and Brown community members are already disproportionately impacted by existing disparities created by America’s capitalistic, white supremacist systems and structures, these unconscionable acts of violence, for many, are too much to bear. We feel it is extremely important that we continue to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement, the Movement for Black Lives, and those protesting police brutality.

It is unacceptable to place blame for police brutality and other acts of state-sanctioned violence on Black and Brown people, who are the victims and targets of such acts. Furthermore, attempting to distract from the issue by focusing on differences of opinions is also unacceptable. This is not about respect for a flag; this is not about police officers being inherently good or evil. This is about systematic disregard for the lives, rights, and humanity of Black people and other people of color.

As white and non-Black staff of color who want to be active in the struggle for Black liberation and equity, we want to reflect on the wisdom and experiences shared by Black people. This requires us to acknowledge and grapple with the traumatization of being Black in America, and the re-traumatization for Black people of witnessing, seeing, and hearing Black death and pain on a near-daily basis. As one Black staff member stated, “While having ‘evidence’ of the brutalization of Black people is important (because it is the only way Black people are believed when these things happen), the media’s constant playing and replaying of incidents like this for the consumption of viewers amounts to a kind of frenzy of Black death porn that is painful for Black people. It is a modern-day version of gathering at the tree to watch the lynching go down.”

We, as an organization, reject the abusive power of individuals, institutions, and our culture more widely, that do not see Black and Brown people, LGBTQ+ people, and others on the margins as deserving of freedom and justice. In order to combat this, we need to stand united against hate and violence, and center the voices and experiences of Black people.

We ask that other agencies and individuals within the Fort Wayne community speak up, especially if you have yet to, and acknowledge that white supremacy and anti-Blackness are the roots of this nation’s founding and are subsequently part of the very fabric of our culture, and that police brutality against Black people is simply one facet of the way that anti-Blackness manifests within a white supremacist culture.

We encourage others to join us in not only condemning these actions but working within our own agencies to reflect on how our actions, practices, policies, and participation in daily microaggressions against Black people contribute to white supremacy and anti-Blackness. It is critically important to recognize that we do not have to be explicitly racist to contribute to and benefit from white supremacy and anti-Blackness, and that it is the responsibility of white people to work to dismantle the way it shows up within our lives. It is not enough to be “non-racist.” We must be explicitly anti-racist.

We encourage others to join us in continuously analyzing and reflecting on the following things:

• What is the makeup of our organizations/businesses/institutions and communities?

• Is our staff, at every level, reflective of the communities we serve?

• Who are in positions of power and leadership within our organizations/institutions?

• What do our board of directors look like?

• Are we hiring and retaining Black and Brown staff?

• Do we make space for Black and Brown staff and community members to be stakeholders in our organizations and contribute in meaningful ways within our organizations/businesses/ institutions and communities?

• And even more importantly, what does justice, equity, and transformation look like within our organizations/businesses/institutions and communities?

At the Center for Nonviolence, we want to be a part of creating communities where all members feel respected, and where no one feels silenced or at risk. As white and non-Black people of color at the Center for Nonviolence who understand our responsibility in achieving Black liberation and equity, we are demanding that our community continue to do better for Black community members. And in order to do better, we need all hands on deck addressing systemic racism. Immediately.

At the Center for Nonviolence, we are continually re-committing ourselves to addressing our own complicity with white supremacy, and welcome you to reach out to us if you need guidance or support as you take steps to engage in this process as well. Please contact us at (260)456-4112.

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