June 16, 2020

Standing at the Ready

Laurie Schoeman

“The actions of an Accomplice are meant to directly challenge institutionalized racism, colonization, and White supremacy by blocking or impeding racist people, policies, and structures.”* 

As a Jewish woman, I have had the privilege of sharing a lifelong affinity with black and brown communities. My mother’s working-class Jewish family fled anti-Semitic persecution in Russia only to face more prejudice and hate in the United States. My grandmother shared stories of hiding under a car when the Ku Klux Klan marched through the streets of 1950s Atlanta – and still marches with the same venomous hate that is destroying our nation.  

Today, at this moment, I am standing at the ready to be an accomplice in the battle to end racism in the United States and nations around the world. We must build a new society with a foundation of trust and equity, where every individual, regardless of skin color, has exactly and precisely the same level of access to resources and no longer faces discrimination based on the color of their skin.   

Through my professional work and my years of community service, I have seen communities torn asunder by rampant racism and ignorance – and the trauma they cause. I’m well aware that far too many white people have randomly quoted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the days since George Floyd lost his life and massive unrest followed. But I truly believe we must do what Dr. King said when he called on us to “pray with our feet.” 

In my work here at Enterprise, my role is to ensure communities have the funding, technical resources and needed policies to prepare for and recover from the disasters caused by climate change. The work of building resilient futures is urgent and gratifying. But among its challenges are generations of disinvestment, underinvestment and sheer racist policies that have shaped where homes are located, how housing is designed, built and maintained, and access to vital community resources.  
 
The combined result of all these decisions is a structural apartheid that must be dismantled.  

I am tired of working together with black and brown communities in California, New York, Puerto Rico and elsewhere on the most critical and important issues of our day with insufficient resources, pleading  for every dime and dollar to pursue critical affordable housing and essential services. We need substantial and targeted financial investment, support for powerful leadership of color, and strong and strategic commitment to the work at hand.  

It is time affordable housing is designed and built in union with residents and communities, and that adequate funding is secured for maintenance and repair.   

It is time that black and brown residents – so often forced into areas of extreme climate risk in floodplains, floodways, deserts and industrial zones and areas that have been redlined and economically and politically undermined for generations – gain the attention and resources needed so that together we can fortify homes and other infrastructure and communities can truly be resilient.  

I stand together with communities of color throughout the nation to declare an end to racial injustice and cry out the words of the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who walked alongside Dr. King in the marches from Selma to Montgomery in 1965: “Racism is man's gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.”  

The United States must be a place where racial equity thrives. Nothing less will ensure justice for black and brown people. As an American, a woman and a Jew, I will recommit every day to being an accomplice in this effort to end racism and change the world.  

*www.whiteaccomplices.org 

Laurie SchoemanLaurie Schoeman is senior national program director of Resilience and Disaster Recovery with Enterprise Community Partners. She is based in New York.  

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