How Systemic Racism Affects The Health And Promise Of Cleveland’s African American Children And Families
In the first issue of Pivot, I wrote about inclusive prosperity for all and the social and economic barriers that disproportionally affect people living in poverty and people of color, particularly African Americans. I never expected I would follow up that writing with one prompted by an event of such brutality, such magnitude and such importance that it instantly shifted the world’s attention from the COVID-19 pandemic to a pandemic of another kind … the pandemic of racism.
George Floyd’s murder outraged millions in our country and around the world. His name and those of countless other victims continue to echo across the country, and people and organizations are responding with rightful demands for change.
What so many do not grasp is that a number of systems, institutions and policies were created throughout the course of our nation’s history specifically to perpetuate the exclusion of entire groups of people, particularly African Americans.
From Jim Crow laws to segregation to redlining, these policies created the kind of racial segregation that continues to
dictate where people live, how they’re educated and their occupations, limiting opportunities for millions — with drastic effects for us all. Whether through deliberate intent, lack of understanding or continued indifference within our society, injustices have continued, with blame far too often cast on the individuals affected versus those institutions and practices responsible.
WITHOUT DRAMATIC CHANGE, THE INEQUITY OF INHERENT RACISM WILL CONTINUE TO HAVE DIRE CONSEQUENCES FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS AND ALL PEOPLE OF COLOR. THAT’S WHY WE ARE REDEFINING THE WAY WE THINK, ACT AND SPEAK ABOUT POVERTY AND RACISM.
By implementing new approaches, strengthening our voice and stepping up our strategic partnerships, we are working to create a community where opportunities to thrive exist for all and every person is treated with the utmost human dignity.
At United Way of Greater Cleveland, we are dedicated to fighting poverty on two
fronts — one that focuses on addressing the immediate, basic needs of those in poverty, and another that identifies long-term solutions to the root causes of poverty.
The first front includes the vital work United Way provides to those in need of essentials, including food, shelter and more through our Community Hub for Basic Needs and 2-1-1 HelpLink, our free, confidential and 24/7 referral service. Since the coronavirus crisis began, we have seen calls to 2-1-1 dramatically increase — at times doubling the usual call volume — as we connected more than 56,000 callers over the last four months with the resources they need to simply survive.
The second essential part of our work involves diving deep to create long-term solutions for those factors we know are responsible for creating poverty, including racism. We are shining a bright spotlight on systemic racism as a major driver of poverty since the two are inextricably linked and crosscut generations.
There is a cost to inaction, and there is a moral, social and economic price that we all pay when inequities exist.