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Blog, Carla's Insights

Committed to Creating Enduring Change

The pain of the tragic murder of George Floyd one year ago today is palpable. Our hearts are with his family and community. The harm and hurt persist.

This awful anniversary, emblematic of so much injustice, is a time to renew and reinvigorate the pledges of action and solidarity spurred by the horrific events of that day, and energized by the thousands of activists – led by the Black community – who turned out from coast to coast and across the world to demand that we confront racism, and end racial inequality.

Today is an important day to inventory our pledges and recommit to doing more and doing better. I feel the urgency acutely as a white woman leading an organization dedicated to the economic inclusion and mobility of tremendously talented, creative people, the majority people of color, who face enormous barriers to employment due in large part to racial bias, and pervasive systems that perpetuate racism and inequality.

Over the course of the last year, like many Americans, I have spent time reading, talking with friends, family, and colleagues, reflecting, protesting, and supporting candidates and policies that aim to dismantle the country’s history of racism and inequality.

I am struck by the scale of what we have all lost by failing to provide equal opportunity to generation upon generation because of their race. We lose out on the talent, contributions, perspectives, and skills of millions of people. Financially, the racial wealth gap undermines the U.S. economy, and is estimated to cost $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion between 2019 and 2028—4 to 6 percent of the projected GDP in 2028.

I am outraged by the number of instances when white Americans organized to murder, terrorize, and literally burn down businesses and places of worship when Black Americans made political, social and economic progress. When we manipulated policies and attacked immigrants who helped build our country. We have deliberately harmed our national interest and undermined our country’s credibility in the eyes of our citizens and the world, again and again, by perpetuating racial inequality.

What’s made me hopeful is that many more white Americans who have long underestimated, failed to understand, or willfully ignored the persistent and devastating impacts of racism are starting to get informed and motivated to oppose it; and people of color, long denied a platform, let alone investment or real support, are increasingly running for and getting elected to political office, getting the recognition they deserve as frontline workers, reporters, artists, business leaders, and more. I am encouraged that some investors are seeking out businesses led by people of color, and that some companies are considering their hiring and promotion policies to level the playing field and welcome those long excluded. But more can and must be done.

Last year, I wrote that, “Words are important, action is essential….REDF is committed to do all we can in support.”

We have been getting to work at REDF.  Our new five-year strategy focuses much more explicitly on advancing racial equity. I am heartened by both the enthusiasm of the people who work at REDF to do better and do more, and the positive response of the amazing employment social enterprise leaders we support who welcome our increased focus on ESE leaders of color, and those who have shared  life experiences similar to the challenges faced by their employees.

We’ve made practical changes to many of REDF’s practices. As a result, our new Growth Portfolio and Accelerator cohorts represent 31 fantastic ESEs and more than half are led by people of color – an exponential increase from the past. We’re learning from our team at REDF and the ESE community, putting new programs on the ground to help people connect, and repeatedly seeking feedback to strengthen our drive toward greater racial and economic equity.

We are excited to engage with so many people in business who lead with their intent to create an affirming work environment that welcomes people who have been met by brick walls when they’ve tried to enter the workforce. ESE leaders who are building assets for their communities. And who are using their collective voices to advocate for systemic change through a national advocacy coalition we started a year ago called Resources Employment Social Enterprises Together (RESET).

We are inspired by organizations like Better Futures Minnesota, a deconstruction and property maintenance business and training organization that provides jobs and housing to talented men who have returned home from incarceration. Mr. Floyd was killed just blocks away from their home base. Their CEO A. Charlene Leach sat down with REDF when they joined the Growth Portfolio this year, and shared that, “We’re investing in the whole of the individual because we want their complete success: at work, in their personal life, and in their community…If we care about equity, justice, and community, how can we do anything else?”

What can you do to help?

The great Maya Angelou put it this way, “The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” And “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”  We’re learning. We know better. Now we’re committed to continuing to do better. Onward.

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