Racial Justice is Long Overdue

Racial Justice is Long Overdue

Posted: Thursday, June 4, 2020
Source: William Penn Foundation

To our grantees and partners:

We are deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd. But we can't claim to be surprised.

My generation came of age during the late 1960s, a time of civil rights and war protests. We knew that a lot needed to change. When grief swept the nation after Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, we said never again. We will do whatever it takes to become a society of justice and equal opportunity.

Some of us launched our careers working in, volunteering, or contributing resources to low-income and marginalized communities. We voted for candidates who promised to ensure freedom and justice for everyone. We sought to undo unfair systems. In time, we fostered diversity at the institutions we influenced, coming to realize that not only is it right to do so, but it benefits everyone.

Regardless, we have fallen short, far short. For too long people of color have not had the many privileges that come with white skin. We see this not only in shocking instances of police brutality, but in countless aspects of daily life. Across the board, disparities among populations abound: arrest and incarceration rates; maternal and infant mortality; prevalence of asthma and lead poisoning; affordable housing; quality childcare, good schools and promising job opportunities; well-resourced libraries, parks, and recreation facilities; safe streets, supportive neighborhoods, and access to technology and good health care.

For years, we have known that longevity correlates with one’s zip code in far too many cities, including ours. Today, the disproportionately high mortality rate of Covid-19 in communities of color underscores inequality. So do other facts – millions of hungry children, families living in crowded, perilous environments, and unemployed persons who despair finding hope.

Over decades of work, the William Penn Foundation has sought to address inequities often tied to race, whether manifested in housing, childcare centers, schools, libraries, playgrounds, or recreation centers. But we must do better, and more, which is why our board has committed to support a racially, economically, and socially just Covid-19 recovery.

There is much to do to thwart systemic racism. Training will help us recognize and address our personal biases. This work will be ongoing. We must learn to listen for better understanding. Embracing further diversity and sharing power will help us consider more deeply the viewpoints and needs of communities of color. Assessing the work we support through a racial equity lens, and holding ourselves to higher standards, will do likewise.

This week’s protests across our nation yet again tell us that a half century has not rendered much change. Systemic racism persists. Coming of age when I did, I knew that it was my generation’s responsibility to change this. We have failed.

I am committed anew to doing all in my power, and in our power, to ensure that the William Penn Foundation consciously contributes to urgently needed change. We do not have another half century.


Janet Haas, M.D.
Board Chair