The Time for Change Is Now: Statement from HSRI on Systemic Racism

Date: 06/2020

We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protestors fighting against racial inequities. Like so many of you, we feel a deep sense of grief and anguish—and struggle to find the words to express ourselves and to know how we can increase the momentum for change.

We have witnessed the brutal killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and numerous other innocent victims of color.  We have also watched with despair at the military-style response to peaceful protestors and incidents of police brutality. We are appalled at the number of White people calling police to report people of color for non-crimes.  We are sickened by the disproportionate and fatal impact that COVID-19 has had on communities of color. These are all stark reminders of our country’s long and continuing history of systemic racism and the deep divides in our society.  The last several weeks have forced Americans to come face to face with the tragedy of slavery and its legacy in our society.  This reckoning has been both heartbreaking and necessary. Together, we are confronting this history and making way for change.

Evidence shows that our current public service systems do not adequately or equally protect the well-being of Black lives, Indigenous lives, and other people of color. But we also know that change is possible. We have seen significant progress in our own work as public systems for people with disabilities have become more responsive and humane.  We have witnessed the commitment and passion of the public officials, staff, and advocates across the country who have contributed to these reforms.  Yet health and human services—as well as other institutions in this country—have not changed nearly enough.

HSRI has worked for decades to ensure that all people who need services and support are heard and respected by policymakers managing health, disability, and human service systems. We have heard and seen the pain and trauma of systemic racism and we have not done enough. We will do more.

We commit to collaborating with people and groups across the country that are working to embed progressive reforms advocated by the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups that have mobilized to support social justice. Further, we commit to listening to and amplifying the voices of people of color wherever and whenever we are present when public policy is being made.  We will emphasize capacity building and create tools and solutions that can be taken up by grassroots organizations, particularly those governed by people with lived experience. “Nothing about us without us” continues to be our lodestar.   

HSRI can and will do more. In the coming weeks, we will develop an action plan for racial justice that will guide all our work going forward. 

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