Leadership’s Response to Current and Ongoing Systemic Racism

Dear Friends,

Here we are. Once again searching for the right words, the right way to feel to overcome hopelessness and fear. This is the second time in a matter of months that we are moved to write to you about racism that is hurting our community and our nation.

Do we keep it professional? Do we cross the line and get personal? Acknowledge that we’re a diverse group of people so one email is totally inadequate? Maybe this is the time we let the “troublemaker” within cuss publicly?

This is what we know:

 We know George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor were murdered. We know every one of you has been affected in some way by these murders. We know that you were outraged with us by the weaponized whiteness used against Christian Cooper (and relieved the outcome in Central Park was not fatal). We know you worried about our campus and those on it on Sunday night. We know this because we are a diverse, but connected group of compassionate people.

We also know that the events of the last few weeks are, shamefully, only symptoms of a broader plight in our society. The systems in our nation are racist and rigged in favor of white supremacy. We renounce these systems of oppression. We renounce police brutality. We renounce racism and violence in all forms. Most especially, we renounce the notion that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color are somehow lesser.

What we saw this past weekend is the result of turning a blind eye and choosing inaction for too long. The results are more painful reminders that injustice remains in our world. We can fix the damage to buildings. Windows can be fixed or replaced. Don’t let us lose sight though, that Emerson is not a collection of buildings. Emerson is its people. We must continue to push for tremendous changes needed to address the issues facing Black people in our country today. We must strive to be a positive force for change in every community we serve.

We’re going to address the white people here directly for a second: SPEAK UP AND HOLD YOURSELVES AND YOUR WHITE FRIENDS AND FAMILY ACCOUNTABLE. Racism is never okay or a joke. It’s quite literally a matter of life and death. Racism is not going to go away on its own, and ignoring it is lazy at best and deadly at worst. We have seen this play out so many times. Teach your kids to see color and embrace differences. Our Black and Brown friends and their families have been fighting this fight, and have been murdered for it, since our nation was founded. It’s time for them to be supported and to be allowed to take a moment to breathe and feel knowing that the fight won’t end while they are healing.

Today, as always, we ask you to do the right thing. It’s time to use your voices and take action. Yes, be outraged on social media and in conversations with friends, but act on it: communicate with your local Police Department, tell your weird uncle to stop using slurs, and for the love of all that is good, stop asking your Black friends, “What can I do?” Research it yourself, then do it. BIPOC friends, we see you. Do what you need to do, and we will stand with you.

SEIU is united in the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide and are dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. Those aren’t just words, and our Union is not just coworkers. We have a mission and a purpose. Let’s act. Speak the names of the dead, stand with one another, don’t be silent.

As the leadership for our Staff Union, we don’t have all the answers, and we are certainly not perfect. We are here, though, as your friends and colleagues. We will protest and hold signs, we will write letters, we will vote knowing that your lives hang in the balance. We will listen, share a joke, or tell people to fuck off if that’s what you need. Mostly, we are here with you and for you.

In solidarity,

Dennis, Elbert, Korina, Robin, and Shaylin