It has happened again. His name was George Floyd. Her name was Breonna Taylor. But there are countless others. There have been too many lives lost and too many injustices perpetrated against black and brown Americans and not enough progress in the fight to stop the spread of this country’s other pandemic: a long, complicated history of racism and discrimination.
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade and Sean Reed are the result of an ugly, painful legacy of systemic racism and violence at the heart of the American story. It’s a story that begins with the genocide of indigenous peoples and continued with the enslavement of African people, whose free labor built the wealth of countless white Americans. That legacy of slavery and violence continues to this day, not only in police brutality, but also in a system of mass criminalization and incarceration, voter suppression, and economic inequality. What’s more is how it manifests in a fictional narrative of white supremacy that reinforces the idea that people of color are less worthy of protection, opportunity and dignity.
As protests have spread from Minneapolis, across the country and around the world, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in a collective expression of grief and frustration, America is being forced to reckon with its legacy of racism. The forces of inequality that claimed the lives of these men and women—and have kept black communities oppressed for centuries—need to be confronted to reframe America’s history and build a truly equitable future.
That’s why the Ford Foundation is proud to support a number of courageous individuals and organizations in the throes of this fight, raising their voices and risking their lives to protect the rights of communities of color, demand an end to oppressive policing and greater investment in communities of color, and call on the nation to uphold its values and deliver justice for all.
They are fearless warriors for equality and justice who are tackling the issues of systemic racism and the unaccountable policing responsible for George Floyd’s death. Already, we’ve seen our grantees at the forefront of the change that’s taken place over the last few days—from the City Council of Minneapolis’s pledge to dismantle the police department to reimagine public safety, to Mayor Garcetti’s commitment to divest $250 million of the LAPD’s budget to support affected communities, to Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon voting to end the presence of police in their schools.
These are monumental steps in the right direction—and they wouldn’t be possible without the tireless work of our grantees here and the many other organizations we support forging a path of hope to transform despair into lasting change. Their work is far from over, but what is clear is that they will not allow this tragedy to have the last word.