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Systemic Racism: Why America’s Promise is Still Unfulfilled

This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been posted here with permission. Read the original posting here.

George Floyd’s last breath breathed new life into a movement. His senseless murder shocked the moral conscience of millions of people. Everyday citizens, activists, businesses, and some government leaders responded with a ferocious roar of anguish. A primordial scream that this cannot still be happening—Black lives again snuffed out by officers sworn to protect and serve. We are enraged because the killings seem so casual, and the desperate pleas to live so breezily ignored, as if a dying Black body is not worth all that much. Those who have worked so hard toward improving American society tore at their hair as their hard-won progress was set back decades in 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

America’s Promise Alliance deeply feels this sense that so much of what we work toward is undermined by persistent, systemic racism. We were founded over twenty years ago on the simple idea that every child deserves a real opportunity to succeed and every adult has a responsibility to make that happen. As an organization focused on children and youth, our goal is to give kids the tools to succeed and help create environments that will allow them to learn, grow, and thrive. But a Black child cannot grow and thrive in a society that will cancel their worth solely because of the color of their skin.

We want America to make a promise and keep its promise to kids about the positive prospects for their future. As part of that mission, we must acknowledge and call out the reality that systemic racism, violence, poverty, and police diminishment of life’s value are cancerous conditions that destroy the very hope and opportunity that we are trying to create for America’s children. The failure to address these issues can and will wash away the foundation for children we work so hard to put in place. 

So, we raise our voice to condemn injustice and to support the work of those who are battling in a direct way to make progress and attack these problems. At America’s Promise Alliance, we reiterate our commitment to justice and recognize clearly how fatal racism is to our mission. With eyes wider open, we will shape and retool our efforts guided by our deep understanding of how profoundly threatening racism is to the hopes and aspirations of black children. These issues are deeply ingrained in our society and the only way to overcome them is for all of us to act together. 

Racial justice is in our organization’s DNA. The name “America’s Promise” came from Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in which Dr. King compared the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to a promissory note. “The note,” Dr. King said, “was a promise that all men — yes, black men as well as white men — would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  With Dr. King’s speech as our namesake, America’s Promise Alliance will work harder to bring forth a more just society and will stand alongside others to insist America not allow its sacred promise to remain hollow.