YWCA Letter to the Editor: We Demand An End to Systemic Racism

Friday, June 12th, 2020

On May 25, 2020, another Black man was lynched in America. George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. Across the country, we all bore witness to this heinous act of racism, but the reality is each and every day we all bear witness to the deep and systemic ways racism permeates the very core of our society. The Black community has endured generations of pain and systemic discrimination, and every day racism persists within our communities and institutions.  We demand an end to systemic racism.

YWCA Southeastern MA is an organization that has been dedicated to racial and gender equity for over 100 years—and our mission is to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. We call on our community, especially those in positions of leadership and law enforcement, to critically and radically examine how we, as individuals, continue to uphold racist systems and perpetuate racism and anti-Blackness.

We express our solidarity with activists, protestors, and all those who took to the streets to demand justice. Silence is complicity and complicity contributes to the violence. Yet, we must move beyond words. We must commit ourselves to the work of racial justice. At the YWCA, we will continue to get up and do the work until injustice is rooted out; until institutions and communities are transformed.

On Monday, June 11, 2020, almost 300 individuals attended two Community Conversations facilitated by the YWCA.  People of Color shared their personal stories of how racism has affected them, microaggressions they have experienced, fears of raising their children, especially their black and brown sons, and overt white supremacist acts against them. The goal of these conversations was about having a space to come together as a community so that people can share and hear feelings of pain, rage, frustration, and fear; to validate and listen to those stories; and to think about ways we can dismantle racism in our community.

To our White supporters, now is not the time to weigh in on the means by which the Black community responds. We must sit back, we must listen, we must learn, we must support, we must challenge each other to do better, we must hold each other accountable. We urge you to inspect any feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and discomfort that may arise during this time. Then, channel those feelings into action. Neutrality only serves to uphold oppressive systems and inaction continues to cost lives. It’s imperative to first listen to Black perspectives and to also respect individual privacy and boundaries. Do the work to deconstruct your own notions and don’t place the emotional burden on Black people to assist you in this individual work. Continuously assess your own biases and educate yourself. Then, utilize your networks and access to educate and mobilize your White peers.

Lastly, to the 114 members of the Massachusetts State Legislature who represent the communities served by the 9 YWCAs across the Commonwealth, we call on you to take urgent action to implement the policy recommendations introduced by the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, to dismantle structural racism in policing at the state level. First, and foremost, we urge you to work with Governor Baker to declare that Racism is a Public Health Crisis, and “worthy of the treatment, assessment, and financial investment to eradicate negative health impacts.”

We also urge you to:

  1. Resolve to provide for a “Special Commission in Peace Officer Standards and Training” to study and make recommendations concerning the implementation of a statewide Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) system that certifies police officers and enables de-certification for misconduct and abuse. (H2146 by Reps. Holmes and Vieira)
  2. Pass H2292 by Rep. Holmes that establishes an Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity to establish guidelines and review for diversity plans for all state agencies, establishes a peace office exam advisory board that reviews examinations for appointment and promotion of peace officers.
  3. Pass H1440 by Rep. Holmes that establishes a commission to study on how the “systemic presence of institutional racism has created a culture of structural racial inequality which has exacerbated disproportionate minority contact with the criminal justice system in Massachusetts.”
  4. Adopt clear statutory limits on police use of force, including choke-holds and other tactics known to have deadly consequences, require independent investigation of officer-related deaths, and require data collection and reporting on race, regarding all arrests and police use of force by every department. (Bill to be filed by Rep. Miranda)

YWCA Southeastern MA will be hosting workshops, panel discussions, working groups, book discussions and webinars on Whiteness, White Privilege, History of Systemic Racism, Education, Housing, Health Disparities, and more.   For more information please contact the YWCA at 508-999-3255, check our website at www.ywcasema.org, or by email at info@ywcasema.org.

We hope you will join us.


Jane Gonsalves, YWCA Southeastern MA Board President

Gail Fortes, YWCA Southeastern MA Executive Director