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Race and Us

June 5, 2020 | By: Jon Budington | Tags: ,

Over the past week, I’ve been talking with family, friends and coworkers about racial equity. The recent video evidence presented has been overwhelming. George Floyd being suffocated by a white police officer, Ahmaud Arbery being shot and killed while jogging through a white residential neighborhood and the racist harassment of Christian Cooper as he was bird watching in Central Park—individually, these images would depict tragedy and ignorance, but together they present something bigger and more troubling.

The protests happening here and around the world are an awakening to this problem. But what do we do with that energy; where do we start? I thought it would be helpful to share my personal journey towards understanding equity. It began with introspection. A colleague and friend suggested using the word “I” instead of “we” when discussing race and to think in the most personal terms. That was a helpful tip.

For the past year, I’ve been participating in The Kresge Foundation’s FUEL (Fostering Urban Equity Leadership) program. I’ve been part of a group representing LIFT, a DC-based anti-poverty organization where I am currently a board member. Conversations at FUEL and with my LIFT colleagues are often uncomfortable, especially when discussing racial equity. Understanding the what and how of poverty is far easier than the why. Racial equity work focuses on systemic racism; it explains a great deal about what we see in those videos.

Possibly the most important advice I received at FUEL was guidance on active listening and becoming more comfortable with asking questions. Yes, making progress began with an internal understanding of how racism affected my thinking. Going from looking to seeing was hard and deeply personal work.

Much of my inspiration and knowledge of addressing systemic racism comes from my involvement with two organizations.

I support LIFT, the non-profit organization focused on families working to exit the cycle of poverty. Through direct coaching and cash transfers, LIFT staff members help parents develop life plans and achieve financial progress. You can learn more at www.liftcommunities.org.

I also support Ashoka’s Economic Architecture Project. The EAP focuses on the financial structures themselves. They design new market architectures that create a more equitable society. You can see more at https://www.economicarchitectureproject.org/.

I had concerns about sharing my feelings on this subject, as it could sound righteous or self-serving. So why do it? I’m sharing because I believe people like me—those who’ve benefited the most from the current system—have a responsibility to make America more equitable. It will make us stronger.

Feel free to reach out to me with thoughts, questions or criticisms. I’m prepared to humbly listen and offer my thoughts.