June 03, 2020

Fighting the Racism Pandemic

BY Katie Smith Sloan

Dear LeadingAge Colleagues,

Our challenging times have become even more challenging.

In recent months, LeadingAge has been very vocal in expressing our deep concerns about the government’s response to supporting older adults and our members during the COVID-19 pandemic. But recent events make it crystal clear that we are facing another, equally deadly, pandemic. As the American Psychological Association declared recently, “We are living in a racism pandemic.”

This racism pandemic is as disconcerting as it is a challenge to each of us, individually and collectively. For only by confronting the systemic racism in our country can we ever achieve understanding and justice. I believe this with every beat of my heart.

Last week’s terrible events in Minneapolis—and so many other terrible events that have occurred around the country—are more than heartbreaking. We are witnessing our country’s blithe indifference to racism and its casual acceptance of violence directed at people of color.

For many in our LeadingAge community, the string of killings is deeply personal, and painful beyond belief. Not all of us know what it feels like to be afraid, each and every day. But we do know that one of us, one of our friends, or a colleague could easily become a victim of violence. We can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes. But we can try our best to understand what it feels like to be black, brown, or Asian in America. We must stand with our sisters and brothers of color.

COVID-19, the coronavirus that we are all fighting, robs people of their health, instills fear, and in many cases, ends lives. Racism, bigotry, and hatred do the same—robbing lives while instilling fear and anger. What is taking place across this country right now shines a spotlight on people who must live their lives being afraid, angry, and hurt. It shines an intense light on what many of you face daily.

LeadingAge is our community. Our values—of acceptance, respect, justice, and inclusion—set us apart. We have worked hard to build a community that nurtures belonging and compassion for one another. So, in this time of grievous social injustice, let us reach out, comfort each other, and respond as friends and colleagues who care deeply about each other.

Let us also use this incredible moment in history to ask the hard questions, to challenge the easy answers, and to engage in the fierce conversations that will lead toward a full-throated acceptance of our diversity, our unique strengths, and our power to change the course of history. In our community. At this moment.

LeadingAge is and will continue to be a place that continually strives to be inclusive and free from discrimination. A place that practices the value of respect and encourages each of us to accept and embrace each other. A place where we know that while we may differ, we are all bound to one another in our humanity. A place that values every person’s voice, no matter how different the opinion. A place that strives for greater understanding overall.

My heart goes out to all. I ask that we come together, in our community, to do our best to defeat the hatred, racism, bigotry, and divisiveness we see around us, and to raise awareness of the social injustices in our society.

I also ask that we begin fierce conversations. Please let me know what ideas, reflections, and observations you have about LeadingAge’s role in addressing these critical and deeply divisive issues. I value your input.

With gratitude, appreciation, and in solidarity,