At the Community Foundation we are heartbroken by the events of these past weeks: the murder in Georgia of Ahmaud Arbery, the murder in Louisville of Breonna Taylor, and the murder in Minneapolis of George Floyd. They were murdered by individuals sworn (at the time or in the recent past) to protect them and their communities. Now their names have been added to a long list of souls whose nation has failed them.
While the United States was founded on the principle of liberty, the brutal oppression of Black people has always been central to our experience. We have built and rebuilt systems that devalue Black lives, and when Black Americans have spoken out, our nation has refused to believe their stories. For some, video evidence has been necessary to believe, but it shouldn’t be. We have witnessed in these videos precisely the injustices that Black men and women have been telling us about for centuries.
Three years ago, when our community was confronted with the organized aggression of white supremacists, people were shocked. Here in Virginia and across the nation they assumed that such a chilling display of racism must have been an isolated act, that such violence is the sole domain of extremists. There was a belief that the violence ended when the perpetrators went home. We know that is not true.
Systemic racism is violence against Black people. Violence is not always the result of individuals hating one another. It is contained within racist systems that push people into segregated neighborhoods with inferior housing, inferior services, inferior healthcare, and increased policing. These systems impose shorter lives on Black people, prevent them from carrying wealth from generation to generation, and limit their physical freedom through higher rates of arrest and imprisonment. By design, our communities center the white experience. A central part of whiteness is the privilege to see and not see these realities, and to believe and not believe. The truth is clear: systemic racism is crushing—and killing—Black Americans.
The Community Foundation was established on the ideals of interconnectedness, of neighbor helping neighbor and of valuing the lives of others. As such, we have an obligation to pursue a just and equitable region for all of our residents.
Our children especially deserve a better version of this nation of ours. They deserve a country in which they can thrive regardless of the circumstances of their birth. It is our collective responsibility to hear, listen, and believe those who cannot breathe in America today. A better future requires that we do.
Brennan Gould, president and CEO
The Community Foundation's Governing Board