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A Tale of Two Futures

United Way of Thurston County fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. EVERY person. And right now, as we are all enduring the terrible impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, our black and brown brothers and sisters are suffering doubly. Not only are they disproportionately endangered by the virus, they are disproportionately endangered by inequities of all kinds.
Black and brown people cannot move through the world with the same freedom that white people can. They cannot engage in normal activities and simply assume that they are safe. They cannot jog, barbeque, go birdwatching, or sleep in their own homes, without fear. Every week, it seems, brings yet another painful example of what it means to exist as a black person in America.
The stress of being black in this country is so toxic it causes a host of chronic health conditions and literally shortens life expectancy. Black mothers in the United States are 2 ½ times more likely than white mothers to die from complications during or after pregnancy. Black children are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than their white peers. Over the course of their lifetimes, 1 in 1,000 black men and boys can expect to die as a result of an encounter with police. For white men and boys, the rate is 39 out of 100,000.
We can cite mountains of evidence and knowledge we have accumulated over decades, showing how systems and policies established long ago, and rooted in racism, have conspired to create a present day America in which simply being black is deadly. My heart is broken.
As I am writing this, I have, several times, had to stop typing because I can’t see through my own tears. And if I find it so painful to even contemplate these truths, imagine how painful it is to live them every day.
I was thinking of a recent conversation I had with my friend Norinda. We often joke about how similar our lives are, and the many ways they have followed the same trajectory. Most recently, that included the births of our first grandchildren within a day of one another. They will be 9 months old in a few days. I told her that we needed to get her son and daughter in law to move to Washington so Khamari and Eli could grow up together and be best friends.
I can tell you how my life and Norinda’s are not the same. I have never had to have “the talk” with my white sons that she has most certainly had many times with her black sons. The talk that her son Gavin will undoubtedly have with Khamari as soon as he is old enough to start venturing out into the world on his own. I look at Khamari’s precious little face, and I cannot imagine the fear his young parents must feel, even as they have hope for his future.
But we should agree on this: whatever hope there is for Khamari’s future, exists only if we can find the collective will to acknowledge the truth and work together to create a community and an America that embraces equity and justice for all people, and forever banishes the poisonous sin of racism in all of its hideous forms.
Structural racism is REAL. It is WRONG. And we have the power to change it. Black people are TIRED. They have cried out, again and again, and it is time for all white voices to join with theirs. We can, and should, continue to speak out against wrong. But the most important thing we can do, individually, in our organizations, and as a community, is to fearlessly pursue what is right. No person or organization, United Way included, can say there isn’t room to improve. And that means we must all commit to equity, reject intolerance and - together - stand up against injustice.
George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Philando Castile. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Alton Sterling. Tamir Rice. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. Sandra Bland.
Black people:
We see you.
We hear you.
We stand with you.
Black Lives Matter.

Chris Wells
Executive Director