Peter Dunn

Pete’s Perspectives: On Racial Equity and Community Trauma

Peter Dunn writes about racial discrimination in the United States and the importance of the community investing in racial equity.

Whether in Minneapolis, Louisville, New York City, Brunswick, GA or elsewhere – what we are witnessing at the moment are just the latest examples of outright racial oppression that goes back generations. In Syracuse, one need look no further than the dreadful distinction that our city holds in having the highest rates of concentrated poverty for African American and Latinx populations among all larger metropolitan areas in the United States. Concentrated poverty doesn’t just happen by accident – but is the manifestation of specific public policy choices over many decades. Who got to live where, how ‘redlines’ were drawn around particular neighborhoods to disqualify potential homeowners from government mortgage insurance benefits, where interstate highways were built and how public schools are funded – all of these were and are public policy choices.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added yet another layer of trauma. The Community Foundation’s experience in facilitating our region’s charitable response to the pandemic through the CNY COVID-19 Community Support Fund affirms that the impact of the virus is not the same for everyone. The virus has had a profound health and economic impact on our most vulnerable populations – in particular for those who have experienced a history of racial discrimination or other types of marginalization through the years. As a number of commentators have noted, we might all be in the same storm at the moment, but we are all most definitely not in the same boat.

White privilege isn’t just an abstract concept – it is a concrete reality. The question, then, is how the Community Foundation can help advance racial equity and move our community forward. Key steps we have already taken include applying a racial equity lens to our grants and strategic initiatives. Our recent major strategic work on childhood lead poisoning and the census has been specifically motivated by these values. Our ongoing success in this regard, however, requires that we move beyond applying a racial equity lens to our programmatic work and affirm that commitment ourselves, including within our own staff and board.

The Community Foundation believes, fundamentally, that people of goodwill can come together and move their shared community forward. For our community to thrive, racial equity will need to be a commitment that we share collectively.  As an institution that is ‘here for good’, the Community Foundation is committed to advancing racial equity and applying these principles to ourselves and our work for years to come.

Peter Dunn
President & CEO
Central New York Community Foundation

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