Juneteenth is a day to celebrate the abolishment of the practice of slavery in the United States. Yet we know many people of color are not free. The Disability Rights Fund and the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund team have put together a joint statement based on the thoughts and experiences of our team members, with a drive to do more to advance racial justice.
While the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Americans have made police brutality and the systemic racism that perpetuates it to mainstream consciousness, we at the Disability Rights Fund and Disability Rights Advocacy Fund know this is not new. Some of our staff, our family members, our friends, and our grantees navigate life through racism – at institutional and individual levels – on a daily basis. As both the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests expand across the world, we have come together as an organization to talk about our lives, our experiences, and what we need to do more of as human rights advocates to achieve a world in which we live a different set of values.
We stand with the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. and with the broader international community to condemn the de-valuing of the lives of Black people. Black lives matter, and they need to be seen, known, and deeply valued. Let us also not ignore the reality that we’ve known for a long time that as a result of institutional racism, Black people who are disabled are at even higher risk of State violence.
Internally at DRF, living our values means that the organization has made space to openly discuss the reality of racism. Our Board, Grantmaking Committee members and staff come from 18 countries, and represent a diversity of religions, races, genders, sexual orientations, and disability groups. This means our experiences in the world due to our identities – visible and invisible – have been radically different. Our professional jobs highlight common and diverse experiences of disability discrimination, across intersectionalities, such as gender and Indigenous origins, and painful experiences of racism, sometimes together with ableism or gender discrimination or other -isms. Our personal experiences of these injustices have affected self-confidence, tamped down voices, or made us feel vulnerable or uncomfortable.
Externally, we are ready to collaborate individually or collectively to counter a culture that has perpetuated inequality and violence against Black Americans. We know that social change is possible, but it takes strategic choices and intentionality. When social movements are supported, nurtured, resourced and most importantly, included in strategy development and decision-making about where money goes, change happens. As a participatory grantmaker – informed by persons with disabilities themselves who have seen the impact of a #ShiftInPower – we cannot emphasize enough the need for Black people to be included at decision-making tables in philanthropy.
We recognize the often hidden effects of long-term oppression. We know we have much to do internally at the individual level and externally at all levels of society to ensure our own structures and work always addresses the impact of systemic discrimination and violence on all our lives and the lives of our grantees. We hope you call on us and work with us to live the values that will bring about justice for George Floyd and all Black Americans.