An Open Letter In Support of Meaningful Conversation and Action to Address Systemic Racism in Government and all American Institutions
On September 22, Donald Trump issued an executive order prohibiting training on racism and sexism that it deemed “divisive, anti-American propaganda.” The order applies to federal agencies, government contractors and recipients of federal grants, including universities and nonprofits.
The order is itself a fundamental attack on America that reeks of McCarthyism and has prompted a federal class-action lawsuit challenging it from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Urban League and the National Fair Housing Alliance. As Mayor of Madison, I welcomed the opportunity to also challenge the order and have joined over 250 other institutions in signing a letter declaring our continued “commitment to dialogue, education, and action to address systemic racism and create a more equitable way forward for all Americans.”
On August 26, 2020 the Department of Justice opened an investigation into the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative training. Soon after the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo, followed by an Executive Order issued by the Trump Administration on September 22nd, banning federal agencies and employees and any of its contractors or subcontractors, from conducting any education, programming, or conversations that directly address systemic racism in America.
The eight minutes and 46 second recording of George Floyd’s murder brought racism in the United States to the fore. People of all races poured into the streets in all 50 states. Thousands of organizations across the country issued statements that Black Lives Matter. A new national consensus is building up from communities across the country that believe addressing racism and inequality is what our country needs to thrive.
The American people are capable of and want to have conversations about race, not just to talk, but to take action and build stronger communities and multiracial democracy.
Yet we stand today with no accountability for the murder of Breonna Taylor and so many other Black people, while the Trump Administration continuously protects abuse and privilege while denying that systemic racism is behind America racial inequities.
Talking about race in honest and truthful ways within institutions such as local, state and the federal government can lead us to justice and reconciliation. We believe the way to end social division is to heal the wounds that separated us in the first place, not to ignore or deny that they exist. We refuse to allow this Administration, which has proven itself to be dangerously hostile towards people of color, to gaslight us and call anti-racist work “racist.”
The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) is a testament to the power of honest conversation about race and genuine commitment to justice. Over the last six years, GARE has grown to more than 250 jurisdictions committed to racial equity. For much of our history, governments have caused the harms that have led to segregation and inequity. This is why states, counties, cities and towns across the country have developed plans to take action toward redressing those harms. GARE recognizes that we must address that history of harm to move us all towards a true multiracial democracy.
GARE is joined by a multitude of allies and partners, all committed to working to ensure racial equity in government. This includes efforts across federal agencies by Americans both inside and outside government committed to equity as an American ideal.
After the massacre of Black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston in 2015, the Reverend Doctor William Barber II said, “The perpetrator has been caught, but the killer is still at large.” The killer is systemic racism, and it threatens the great American project, one that still has a chance and must move us toward equity and democracy.
What makes us American is our ability to fight for justice. At this moment in our story, fighting racism is our most urgent obligation. Talking about and fighting against systemic racism is essential.
We, the undersigned, declare our commitment to dialogue, education, and action to address systemic racism and create a more equitable way forward for all Americans.
• 𝙑𝙤𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘼𝙙𝙢𝙞𝙣𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣’𝙨 𝙧𝙚𝙥𝙚𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨
• 𝘾𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙞𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙢𝙚𝙚𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝘼𝙢𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙣 𝙥𝙚𝙤𝙥𝙡𝙚’𝙨 𝙙𝙚𝙨𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙢𝙚𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙣𝙜𝙛𝙪𝙡 𝙘𝙤𝙣𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙨𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 𝙤𝙣 𝙨𝙮𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙞𝙘 𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙨𝙢
• 𝙍𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙜𝙣𝙞𝙯𝙚 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙙𝙚𝙫𝙖𝙨𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙜𝙚𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙝𝙖𝙧𝙢𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙨𝙮𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙞𝙘 𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙨𝙢
• 𝙑𝙤𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙨𝙪𝙥𝙥𝙤𝙧𝙩 𝙛𝙤𝙧 𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙡𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙡𝙨 𝙤𝙛 𝙜𝙤𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙣𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙖𝙙𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙨𝙮𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙞𝙘 𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙨𝙢
• 𝘾𝙖𝙡𝙡 𝙤𝙣 𝙥𝙝𝙞𝙡𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙝𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙮, 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙗𝙪𝙨𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙪𝙣𝙞𝙩𝙮, 𝙣𝙤𝙣𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙛𝙞𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙥𝙧𝙤𝙛𝙚𝙨𝙨𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙖𝙡 𝙤𝙧𝙜𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙯𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 𝙖𝙘𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙨 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙣𝙩𝙧𝙮 𝙩𝙤 𝙚𝙭𝙥𝙡𝙞𝙘𝙞𝙩𝙡𝙮 𝙧𝙚𝙘𝙤𝙜𝙣𝙞𝙯𝙚 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙖𝙙𝙙𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙨𝙮𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙢𝙞𝙘 𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙨𝙢
• 𝘿𝙚𝙘𝙡𝙖𝙧𝙚 𝙤𝙪𝙧 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙞𝙩𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙡 𝙟𝙪𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙘𝙚 𝙖𝙨 𝙖𝙣 𝙞𝙣𝙙𝙞𝙨𝙥𝙚𝙣𝙨𝙖𝙗𝙡𝙚 𝘼𝙢𝙚𝙧𝙞𝙘𝙖𝙣 𝙫𝙖𝙡𝙪𝙚