Why Arise is focusing on racial equity in our work

It seems to me that we are living through a time of historic political upheaval and transformation. While we continue to push forward policies to increase dignity, equity and justice, too often we end up playing defense.

Corporations exert more influence today than ever before to suppress the people’s power to organize and access the ballot. White supremacists advocate policies that suppress the rights of black and brown people, religious minorities and immigrants, using a well-worn playbook to build power and wealth at the expense of scapegoated targets. Their tactics prevent us from creating the great society that we imagine in our vision statement.

But something is happening in Montgomery to hold us accountable to our past and to call us towards more direct action. Since the groundbreaking of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Memorial for Peace and Justice and the accompanying Legacy Museum last spring, people are coming here from all over the world to learn about our nation’s history of racial terrorism. Visiting guests are often asking us for our perspective as Alabamians about how we can grapple with our state’s historic and ongoing failures to afford dignity, opportunity and justice to all people.

Against this backdrop, our board and staff have adopted a more explicit commitment to racial equity and inclusion. We know we can’t address poverty without acknowledging how our state’s investment in racial exploitation and discrimination created policies that have built wealth for a few, while disenfranchising the many. And if we don’t have a direct narrative to address ongoing racial inequality, extremists will tell a story about race that serves their own agenda.

As a result of this framework, we hope to create more advocacy tools, data and messaging to acknowledge race and to give grassroots advocates and communities the tools they need to fight, and win, in discussions about policy where racial prejudice is too often the subtext.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments on this as we frame our work more directly to address racial injustice as a key part of winning on our agenda to increase dignity, equity, justice and opportunity for all.