Almost three months ago, I found myself writing in this space about the need to come together to support each other and those we serve in facing the new coronavirus and COVID-19. I’m now writing about a very different sort of plague that has been devastating our country for far too long — the pervasive and pernicious racism that undermines the lives of individuals and communities of color and that far too often erupts into violence, especially against Black men. Most recently, we saw that violence in the killing of George Floyd while being restrained by Minneapolis police.

George Floyd’s death has shaken our country to its very core. We need to acknowledge what happened to Mr. Floyd — and to acknowledge how many times similar acts of violence have been wrought on other members of the Black community. We need to reflect on what part we can — we must — play in creating a more just, fair, and safe society, not just for some of us but for all of us. As hundreds of thousands of people across the United States (and around the world) — perhaps millions — have stepped up in passionate but peaceful protests to say, “No more,” some suggest that the United States might finally be at a turning point. But we will only see a meaningful, sustained change if we all step up and commit to making it happen.

We must remind ourselves that, however this particular moment of conflict and crisis is ultimately resolved, racism did not begin here, and it will not end here. The work of uprooting it and of addressing related inequities not only must continue but must deepen and broaden. As a White person, I recognize that being part of the group that has played the largest role in perpetuating our nation’s history of racism demands that I serve as an ally for Black people and other individuals who bear racism’s weight in their daily lives. It demands that I take responsibility to listen, to speak out, and to act every day, doing all I can to chart a new course free of racism and injustice. For me, that has meant asking some hard questions: How have I accepted that some of my colleagues and neighbors — my Black colleagues and neighbors, as well as others of color — for good reason do not feel safe going for a run in their neighborhood or watching birds in Central Park? Can I accept that justice is for me but not for everyone? What should I do as an individual to counter racism?

I’ve also asked myself how WestEd can be more effective in its own efforts to bring about a more just and equitable future for everyone. If we are genuinely committed to equity, as stated in our mission, we must do better in helping to address the glaring inequities we are seeing and the shameless injustices that surround us. Every day we must work harder to create the constructive, positive changes that are needed. This is our agency’s ongoing challenge and our ongoing commitment.

As we all reflect on our individual and collective responsibility for ensuring that everyone in our country is safe and is treated justly and respectfully, I hope we can find common cause in beginning anew to ensure that our country reflects, in actions, the ideals and values we espouse in words.

Glen Harvey
Chief Executive Officer