Read below a letter from Dr. Bakeyah Nelson, Air Alliance Houston’s Executive Director, in response to the demonstrations sweeping across the world over systemic injustice catalyzed by the death of George Floyd.
Dear Partners and Friends,
For days I have struggled with how to begin this letter because the challenges we face as people of color are so entrenched in every aspect of our lives. This past week, I repeatedly looked into the faces of my children and thought, how do you explain hate to a child? The devaluing of black and brown lives is evident all around us each and every day. The overconcentration of environmental hazards in communities of color, limited access to basics like fair wages, healthy food, and health care – these are all indicators that serve as daily reminders that the lives of people of color are not valued.
There is an unrelenting cadence of stress and trauma that shapes the everyday lives of black and brown people. The cries demanding action emanating from the protests taking place throughout the country have been fueled by the stark reality that racism permeates our lives. This shapes how people perceive us and how they choose to interact or don’t interact with us. It goes far beyond being given the benefit of the doubt when walking in a neighborhood in a community where “we don’t belong.” It allows for thoughtless decisions to be made about our communities, such as where to put the next concrete batch plant or whether to expand a highway that will cause the displacement of entire neighborhoods.
The murder of George Floyd has caused the rupturing of severe and inadequately treated racial wounds. For years, communities of color have been offered lethargic attempts that aim to address the symptoms of racism rather than the root causes. While people of color have been vocal about these injustices for years, the protests are now making clear across the world that America’s racial lacerations are too deep to continue to be ignored. The remedy will require a commitment to dismantling the policies and practices throughout each and every system that enables the conditions that produce unequal outcomes, including our lives being cut short.
Many people are asking “where do we go from here” however, it is also important to take the time to feel the grief, pain, and frustration of communities that for too long have been exploited, taken for granted, and dehumanized. It’s time to not only have compassion for the suffering of our fellow human beings, but also to take intentional steps toward reconciling the disconnect between the ideals America has put forth compared to the unjust realities we are faced with daily. To preserve means to keep safe from injury, harm, or destruction. Preserving communities of color requires a movement of committed people that aims to address all of the factors that created and perpetuate the conditions that we are faced with today.
For Air Alliance Houston, this means continuing to advocate for systemic changes that stop the disproportionate placement of environmental hazards in and near communities of color. At this juncture in our history, it is and will continue to be critical for all of us to bolster efforts to ensure the preservation of people of color so that every person has a fair opportunity to pursue a life they desire.
Bakeyah S. Nelson
Air Alliance Houston