A Message from Our President & CEO on Ferguson

Posted December 1, 2014
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog messagefrompresidentferguson 2014

At Thanks­giv­ing tables across the coun­try last week, fam­i­lies and friends gath­ered for the quin­tes­sen­tial Amer­i­can hol­i­day. The con­ver­sa­tions around these tables typ­i­cal­ly dwell on fam­i­ly mile­stones and updates: preg­nan­cies and births, engage­ments and wed­dings, jobs and vaca­tion plans. This Thanks­giv­ing, at some gath­er­ings, the events in Fer­gu­son occu­pied a cen­tral place. And these con­ver­sa­tions were in turns sad, angry, resigned and resolute.

Yet again, our nation is roiled and divid­ed by a ter­ri­ble tragedy involv­ing a young African Amer­i­can and a police offi­cer. An 18-year-old young man is dead, his fam­i­ly bereft, his com­mu­ni­ty out­raged. A grand jury has decid­ed not to indict the police offi­cer on any charge. Some – most­ly white, accord­ing to pub­lic opin­ion polls – feel the deci­sion is jus­ti­fied, based on the evi­dence in this par­tic­u­lar case. Oth­ers, most­ly peo­ple of col­or, feel the deci­sion is anoth­er exam­ple of ter­ri­ble injus­tices, anoth­er demon­stra­tion that all Amer­i­can lives are not equal­ly val­ued. As we read the details, lis­ten to count­less pun­dits, talk with our fam­i­lies and friends, and sim­ply reflect, many of us are touched by despair, fed by belief that we will nev­er tru­ly heal from the scar­ring wounds of slav­ery, racial vio­lence, Jim Crow seg­re­ga­tion, dis­crim­i­na­tion and per­sis­tent inequality.

These deep wounds and ongo­ing injuries – this coun­try’s long and shame­ful his­to­ry of racism and exploita­tion, the per­sis­tent lega­cy of unequal oppor­tu­ni­ty, and the dai­ly assaults on dig­ni­ty and human­i­ty – touch the core mis­sion and val­ues of the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion: to help build a path to a brighter future for all children. 

Our col­lec­tive expe­ri­ence with racism and inequities impacts all aspects of Casey’s work. As we try to ensure oppor­tu­ni­ty and finan­cial secu­ri­ty for all fam­i­lies, we con­front a seem­ing­ly end­less stream of dis­cour­ag­ing dis­par­i­ties in edu­ca­tion­al achieve­ment, employ­ment, income and wealth. Chil­dren and fam­i­lies of col­or are more like­ly to be involved with pub­lic sys­tems such as child wel­fare and juve­nile jus­tice that have pow­er to either help them suc­ceed or dis­rupt their lives by with­hold­ing need­ed resources. The low-income com­mu­ni­ties with whom we part­ner, whose res­i­dents are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly fam­i­lies of col­or, are rav­aged by long-term dis­in­vest­ment and abandonment. 

In the midst of these dif­fi­cult truths, it is tempt­ing to become resigned and con­vinced that real change will nev­er come. Yet we must not for­get or ignore the huge strides toward a more equal soci­ety this coun­try has already made, thanks to the many known and unknown heroes of the civ­il rights and social jus­tice move­ments. We must remem­ber the words Mar­tin Luther King Jr. relied upon in the days of dark­ness and pain, recall­ing the great tran­scen­den­tal­ist philoso­pher Theodore Park­er: The arc of the moral uni­verse is long, but it bends toward justice”.

Dr. King knew the uni­verse did not bend toward jus­tice on its own, but only through a nation’s col­lec­tive com­mit­ment to work hard for true jus­tice. As we reflect on our his­to­ry, and on our future, my deep­est hope is that we can join hands and hearts to give one anoth­er the courage and sup­port to work to ful­fill this nation’s high­est ideals, so that all of our chil­dren have a brighter future.

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