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Foundation Insights

An Equitable and Just Society Starts with Each of Us

August 02, 2021

I was brought up to believe that all people have dignity and deserve to experience the fullness of life.

Too often, our society has not treated People of Color in this way. For example, earlier this year during an online forum sponsored by the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, I listened as nationally renowned author Richard Rothstein chronicled the discriminatory housing practices sponsored by government at all levels and the long-lasting negative consequences they have had on Communities of Color, especially African Americans.

In his book, The Color of Law, Rothstein documents how American cities became racially divided due to federal, state, and local government policies that systemically imposed residential segregation. Coupled with unscrupulous real estate and lending practices, such actions precluded People of Color from attaining generational wealth in ways afforded to Whites.

These practices, along with inequities in healthcare, education, and the economy, are an underlying part of America’s history of segregation. To the point, our reckoning of them is a necessary step toward realizing the Foundation’s vision of “a thriving community with opportunity for all”—what we envision for the people of Hampton Roads.

Indeed, this reckoning has undergirded the Foundation’s keen focus on racial equity for the last three years. Among other things, we have engaged civic leaders, residents, and experts to consider the most pressing needs of our region through an equity lens. And, we are using the insights gained from these continuing conversations to chart where we will put our strategic focus in helping to effect real systemic change in the region and beyond. A racially equitable, just society is core to our mission and, we believe, is essential to the success of the region and its people. The journey inherent in this commitment is a long one, to be sure, but with an increasing urgency that calls for action from all of us.

At the Color of Law event, I shared steps we can individually take both to better understand the urgency of the moment and to challenge the structural racism that threatens our future as a region and as a nation. They include the following:

• Join your civic league and get to know your neighbors.

• Report housing discrimination you witness or experience.

• Advocate for integrated, equitable, high-quality educational

experiences for all.

• Learn from local segregation stories shared by the region’s

residents at www.livingtogetherlivingapart.com/the-stories.

• Write op-ed pieces, talk to elected officials, join a local civic

board, committee or commission, run for office, form coalitions.

In short, I opined, play to your strengths and engage because the business of an equitable and just society starts with each of us.

For more information about the Foundation’s commitment to racial equity, visit hamptonroadscf.org/racialequity.

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