Serving as a catalyst for change, we develop, organize and empower individuals and communities to advance equity and opportunity for all.
In response to COVID-19
Michigan Roundtable Communication to our Friends and Supporters
I begin this message wondering how those of you receiving this communication are doing during this tragic health crisis. While my family and I are safely sheltering in place with abundant resources, I am aware many are not. My colleagues and I are mindful of the fact that friends of the Roundtable are among the 2,400+ who have died, the 32,000+ infected, the medical professionals treating us, the essential service workers risking their health, and the residents at increased risk as their neighborhoods are surrounded by concentrated poverty. We are painfully aware that our neighbors in the Black community who suffered great loss of wealth during the housing foreclosure crisis and continue to battle the legacy of segregation for access to opportunities are disproportionately represented in the numbers of those who have died and who are infected. Our outrage at this reality is compounded by the fact that this scandal is the result of deliberate practices and policies, which are deeply entrenched in virtually all our systems.
The question for us is what do we do about this complex issue while far too many people are dying, and others are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to their loss of employment and resources in communities which look far different from mine. The answer to this question consumes the Michigan Roundtable as we work to end racism. We recognize we are all in various places on our journey to understand racism, much less to do anything about it. For starters, far too many of us are in a relational vacuum, where the reality of racism and its deadly consequences are only newspaper stories, not people we know and care about. This is not a new aha as I have seen this pattern throughout trainings and community discussions where majority white groups discover they are unable to complete an exercise that asks them to go home and discuss the training or discussion they are engaged in with someone in their circle who is non-white. Many come back to the table with the exercise incomplete because they don’t have any friends who are non-white.
This makes the work to end racism more difficult as far too many of us don’t know those suffering from racism, much less why. While the Stay-at-Home order remains in effect, our ability to grow beyond our own homogenous circles and create personal connections requires creative thought. A couple options that are immediately available are attending virtual webinars that highlight the experiences of non-white communities, watching films like HBO’s True Justice or Amazon Prime’s Just Mercy, or reading articles and blogs that share more personal accounts like the recent opinion piece written by our own Yusef Shakur that digs deeper into the Black experience in the marginalized neighborhoods of Detroit.
Recently, I listened in on a press conference that had a range of speakers from State Representative Padma Kuppa, who is also a Board Member of MRDI, Attorney General Dana Nessel, and State Senator Stephanie Chang to a range of leaders representing Michigan’s Asian American community. This press conference was called to raise awareness about the harm Asian Americans are experiencing due to xenophobic rhetoric mislabeling the current pandemic as the “Chinese Virus” or “China Virus” and thus stirring fear and mistrust of Asian Americans. Through the course of the presentations, it was unsurprising to hear of bigots and white supremacists using this crisis as an opportunity to spread hate and harm to other non-white or non-Christian communities. While this hate is real, it is not new and is an everyday reality for our co-workers and neighbors.
As we move forward, we will be issuing weekly updates on the work to end racism, informing you of virtual events, sharing valuable resources, and providing information and ways for you to engage in the work with us as we build a collective movement towards a racially and socially just Michigan.
We want to hear from you and learn about your journey, your current learnings from what you are reading, hearing and seeing. We welcome your response to the Virtual Engagement Response Form, available by clicking here.
Thanks for your support and collaboration,
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