A Message from Our CEO
What can I do?
I suspect this is a question many Americans are asking themselves in this moment.
The murders by police and citizen vigilantes of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have made it clear that a global pandemic will not stand in the way of the overt AND institutional system of racism endemic to the United States of America. The protests are being fueled not just by the recent killings, but of this larger and persistent system of inequity and injustice. The fact that Black communities have suffered more COVID-19 deaths per capita has further exposed a system rife with disparities in health, employment and housing.
As a housing counseling agency founded to fight racist lending practices, we see the continued impact of discrimination and inequity in our sector. It’s been four decades since the passage of the Community Reinvestment Act and Black Americans continue to experience the long-lasting effects of redlining and lack of access to capital, as evidenced by the racial wealth gap. When you look at homeownership by race, the rate for White Americans (74%) is far higher than Black Americans (44%).
At NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania, we are committed to helping dismantle institutional racism in the housing and financial services sectors. If our nation can literally throw all of its scientific knowledge and resources at fighting COVID-19, if Congress can work together in an unprecedented manner to pass relief packages for struggling citizens and businesses, then certainly we can move this mountain.
The pandemic of racism has afflicted America since before its founding. It is a disease that stubbornly endures. Black and brown citizens cannot win this battle alone. White citizens must be willing to listen, speak and, most importantly, act. Organizations must go through the same processes and be part of the solution. If individuals and institutions remain silent, they are part of the problem, and we will never have racial justice in America.
NeighborWorks Western Pennsylvania traces its roots to the fight for safe and affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents and people of color. From its humble beginnings on the Northside, its model of change inspired a movement, replicated in cities and towns across the nation. Our founder, Dorothy Richardson, and her neighbors acted. They brought together residents, local leaders and financial institutions to bring down discriminatory barriers to homeownership and neighborhood investment. More than 50 years later, we recognize there is more work to do.
We remain committed to equitable, inclusive housing solutions for all Western Pennsylvania families. We will be a strong ally to our Black neighbors who have been denied the opportunity to become homeowners. We will be their partner along their journey, so that they can own a home, build assets and begin to close the racial wealth gap. In the weeks and months to come, I commit to talking honestly with Black leaders and community partners about how NeighborWorks – and I, personally – can be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.
So, what can I do? I can listen, speak and act. I hope you will too. Our country, our fellow citizens and our neighbors depend on it.