DEI Statement: At VIM, the terms equity and inclusion apply to all individuals, regardless of race, color, age, national origin, socio-economic status, sex (including transgender status, gender identity, sexual orientation and pregnancy), religion, disability, genetic information, marital status, political affiliation, or any other label that divides or segments individuals. (Definition from U. S. Department of Education)
Declaración de Diversidad, Equidad e Inclusión: En VIM, los términos equidad e inclusión se aplican a todas las personas, a pesar de su raza, color, edad, origen nacional, condición socioeconómica, sexo (incluyendo la condición de transgénero, identidad de género, orientación sexual y embarazo), religión, discapacidad, información genética, estado civil, afiliación política, o cualquier otra etiqueta que divida o segmente a individuos. (Definición del Departamento de Educación)
We would like to take a moment to recognize the grief and suffering permeating our communities from the unjust killing of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and all the Black men and women before, in-between and after.
Black lives matter.
If you are reading this letter it is likely you are involved with VIM, or other organizations around Oregon, as a philanthropist. Philanthropy is the desire to promote the welfare of others. In this moment we may learn something new about what it means to make active efforts to promote human welfare: most of us are well-intentioned and desire to bring diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into our communities. But what does it mean for those around us when our good intentions become a passive ideal? Dr. Martin Luther King wrote that he had “almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
The word humanity is inclusive, but the actions of the authorities have not been. We see in those actions institutionalized oppression and deeply ingrained structural racism that has allowed racial profiling, callous policing, the privation of adequate education, and a criminal justice system that targets the Black man, to become the status quo for people of color. Black people know everything about what it means to live in a white world. They understand the dynamics of white spaces because they are required to for their own safety. We now find ourselves in a crucial moment (that took far too long to get to), where White people can no longer ignore what it means to be Black in America.
There is an idea called Standpoint Theory which proposes that the most marginalized groups, or those at the bottom of the social hierarchy, are able to more accurately see and understand the workings of the world from those who are benefiting from the system. As we are hearing stories of profiling, watching videos of violence, and digesting the knowledge that this has been the ongoing reality for 47.8 million Black Americans and all those who came before, this idea feels less like a theory. There are over 1,500 Black individuals living in Central Oregon, and we as a community must recognize historical patterns of selective empathy and a blind spot towards their experience. In this we are reminded that we must listen to the most marginalized individuals in order to bring about change that will result in a more just society. We must listen to Black people, and more so, we must listen to Black women.
For those of us who have not been victims of racial discrimination, we must acknowledge that we are the ones with privilege. White privilege does not mean that a White person hasn’t faced hardship in their life. Every one of us has faced unique obstacles and adversity. Rather, it means one has not faced hardship, missed opportunities, discrimination, and direct violence, due to the color of their skin. Now is a time when those of us with privilege must determine how to use it to bring equity to our communities.
Yours in Peace and Solidarity,
Volunteers in Medicine Clinic of the Cascades Board & Staff