OPEN LETTER TO THE GREAT LAKES BAY REGION ON RACE AND ETHNICITY

In the 1960’s, during a time of significant strife around civil rights, and while attempting to draw attention to the realities of racism, Dr. Martin Luther King said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” In the more than 50 years that have passed since that time – and despite the sincere and tireless efforts by the Black community to educate all of us – America is still mired in structural racism. Equity for our Black and brown brothers and sisters is missing in matters of housing, education, and economic opportunities. Difficult access to high quality medical care and social services plagues a disproportionate number of our Black and brown citizens. And the appalling figures of death and injury due to socioeconomic plight and police racial injustice tilt unfavorably in their direction. MiHIA acknowledges these sad realities, we condemn them, and in attempting to live up to Dr. King’s vision for his friends, we intend to never go silent again.
 
The death of George Floyd in May 2020 brought these realities of racism back not only into the forefront of the national conscience, but into the forefront of our own. With this sharper awareness, we wish to end silence and declare unequivocally that Black and brown lives do matter.  People of color deserve not only our acceptance, respect, and love, but more importantly today a fierce new insistence on what always should have been: co-equality in society. We commit to use our collective resources to push for societal change and work with others so that structural racism is abolished. Our Black and brown brothers and sisters have been graceful, humble, valiant, and far too alone in their war against racism, and they will now know that MiHIA will be joining at their side to usher in a new day.
 
To bring this about, we must focus on becoming educated to the trials, challenges, and harsh realities of living with colored skin in America. The most powerful and influential way that learning can come is through listening to people of color. We must create safe spaces for meaningful, longitudinal dialogue, with the goal of not only elevating black and brown voices, but turning their heartaches and hopes for a better tomorrow into new realities of safety, equity, and opportunity today. And we must build multi-sector coalitions that become expert in recognizing the varied faces of racism and, through deliberate activism, policy change, and legislation, rise together to eliminate them once and for all.
 
It is good that the world is waking to the reality of racism. It is good that most Americans do not harbor intentional racist beliefs in their hearts. And it is good to desire for racism to end. But none of that is enough. It is not enough to simply not be racist: we must become anti-racist in all we think, in all we say, and in all we do. We must speak truth to power, and stand for our Black and brown brothers and sisters in every facet of our daily lives where even the smallest elements of racism appear. MiHIA will partner with others engaged in anti-racist work, advocate for all people of color in our meetings and decision making, and work toward the equitable allocation of community resources, especially where black and brown people have previously experienced disadvantage. We will also dedicate ourselves to developing awareness of our racial blind spots, since those very blind spots will otherwise serve as insurmountable stumbling stones to racial harmony. We commit to do this, and to rise to the moment foreseen by President Abraham Lincoln when he spoke from Gettysburg: “It is for us the living…to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who have gone before us have thus far so nobly advanced. It is…for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom.”
 
To the high and noble vision of “liberty and justice for all” we pledge our deepest and forward-moving commitment.

MiHIA has been dedicated to advancing the health of all people in the region and will continue to vigorously pursue our vision and mission.

In conjunction with our 2020 Open Letter to the Community on Race and Ethnicity, and with thoughtful review, MiHIA believes it can and should take additional actions.

MiHIA Commitments and Action

  • MiHIA commits to increase the racial/ ethnic diversity of our MiHIA BOD within one year.
  • MiHIA commits to advance discussion with our partners regarding the THRIVE Steering Team Diversity.
  • MiHIA commits to accelerate and expand our current action to include all people, especially those marginalized communities, in planning and implementation of our work.
  • MiHIA will seek and connect with partners across the region for meaningful conversations to listen, learn and act on racism and all forms of discrimination.
  • MiHIA commits to add a special focus on equity leadership to the current interviews for our new CEO.