07/02/2020

Dismantling Systemic Racism Through a Systematic Approach

CSH believes our national approach to public safety has to fundamentally change and we know that systemic racism is at the heart of the problem.

Patterns of over-policing, over-incarceration, and disparate racial and ethnic outcomes are the result of a legacy of redlining and other racist housing policies, as well as the chronic disinvestment in, and the intentional marginalization of, low-income and communities of color. We recognize that dismantling systemic racism requires a systematic approach. We stand as an ally in this re-imagination and commit our organizational resources to support the work required.

The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, as some of the most recent in a long line of tragic killings at the hands of police, have brought the consequences of police violence and anti-Black racism to the center of national protests and calls for justice at a scale not seen since the civil rights movement. For far too long, there has been a justice system that works for those who can afford it, and systemic injustice for others. The implications of this segregated system are far-reaching and have, for centuries, resulted in the destruction of families and communities. Differing outcomes based on race, ethnicity, immigration status, or how one identifies, demonstrate that the system is failing and it is time that we look at its “front door.”

The disproportionate impact of racism, bias and discrimination perpetuated against communities of color, those with varying abilities and those living in extreme poverty, has been made undeniably clear in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented health challenges it has brought. And we have seen the terrifying intersections of these characteristics in public nursing homes, jails, prisons and shelters where people are warehoused and where physical distancing is impossible.

Transformative changes require bold leadership.

Leadership like that of the Miami-Dade County 11th Circuit helped create the Criminal Mental Health Project, diverting people away from jail and the justice system into treatment and community-based supports. As a result, Miami-Dade was able to close the Women’s Detention Center. Just over four years ago CSH joined advocates in New York City seeking a similar result – to stop criminalizing mental illness, cut the jail population in half and close Rikers Island, the nation’s largest correctional institution. At the time, those calls were met with resistance and portrayed as dangerous and unachievable. The determined advocacy of the people and communities personally impacted by the system moved the concept from a visionary goal to an attainable solution through a strategic planning and sound public policy. We are strongest when we listen to and center the experiences of people that are closest to the issue and support them in leading change.

Advancing solutions to reimagine systems and reinvest funding in housing and community services is not new for us but requires broader collective action.

Through our FUSE initiative to create housing for people cycling between jail and shelter, we were brought into the conversation in New York City. In Ohio, it was our work to help people transition from prison to homes in the community. Similar to the efforts many communities are doing to reimagine what a system that truly promotes public safety could look like, it is the responsibility of CSH to also look across the multiple systems we engage with and re-examine what a systematic approach to eradicating racism should be. This includes justice, health, youth and families, aging, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and affordable housing. 

Bold leadership also requires accountability.

When CSH made racial equity a key driver in our strategic plan, it was a recognition that we can and should be doing more, both internally and externally. We have been developing a racial equity framework to underpin all of our efforts and we are proud of the progress we have made, but we know we have a long way to go. CSH staff have been driving our work and calling for action. Their urgency is an asset and we thank all our staff, particularly staff of color, for their leadership. That leadership has helped us in developing the tools we need like the Racial Disproportionality and Disparities Indexthe Thrive Framework and Compact for Thriving Communities, and has put us in a position to hit the ground running. 

Together we can make it possible for all people, regardless of how they identify, to have a home in the community of their choosing, and the supports they need to thrive.

We invite you to partner with us in redesigning just and equitable systems, but most importantly, we ask that you hold us accountable as we work to be an anti-racist organization and agent for transformative change.

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