“I can’t breathe,”
are the last words we heard from George Floyd, a 46-year old African-American man, as a white, Minneapolis police officer pinned Floyd, with his knee, by the neck, while Floyd lay face down, handcuffed in the street.
The events of the arrest, Floyd’s subsequent death, and the delayed punitive action to the now former officer and his three colleagues, set off an avalanche of complex emotions, global peaceful protests, riots, and looting of our neighborhoods -- again deepening the cracks in our social contract with our institutions and our relationships with each other. Mr. Floyd’s death, yet another at the hands of those meant to protect and serve, again, sparked tensions that put at risk lives on both sides of this standoff.
Not only is it the systemic injustice starting with policing, but also the daily microaggressions, the “common” racism, the profiling, and the weaponization of race that contribute to the marginalization, fear, exhaustion, and anger in the Black community. Systemic racism is also what has led to the disinvestment of communities of color across the nation, creating a host of vulnerabilities.
“I can’t breathe” is now one of the iconic cries of 2020. In addition to black and brown communities disproportionately suffering the health and economic inequities highlighted by the seemingly forgotten COVID-19 pandemic, these latest tragic events have knocked the wind out of our historically underserved communities. Already negotiating the financial storm brought on by record level unemployment due to the pandemic, a speedy and sustained recovery in these communities is now compounded by this confluence of health, economic, and social crises.
Neighborhoods, especially their commercial corridors, and the livelihoods of business owners were destroyed by the hands of agitators, opportunists, and some of Chicago’s most frustrated and disenfranchised residents. We are saddened as we contemplate the significantly disparate long-term effects property destruction will have in our lower-to-moderate income communities, starting with easy access to basic resources such as food/groceries, banking services, prescriptions, etc.
Without mindful action, we anticipate that communities on Chicago’s south and west sides will again experience a slow recovery with respect to investment, employment, and goods and services -- delayed or gone for good -- as some small business owners are unable to rebuild and large businesses choose not to rebuild.
Through all the chaos and debris, though, it is important not to be distracted and lose the message of the protestors -- the demand for accountability, policing reform, and social justice.
For 45 years, NHS has been fighting institutional racism defined by redlining practices and disinvestment in underserved neighborhoods. NHS continues to work hand in hand with community members to rebuild neighborhoods and address these economic disparities. We will focus our lens on bringing awareness to the racial inequities in housing policy and programmatic structures. We will continue dedicating our resources to assisting low-to-moderate income people with access to education, capital, and comprehensive community services.
As part of our neighborhood revitalization efforts, we will strive to help create stability, improve health outcomes, and strengthen the social fabric in the communities we serve. We will equitably develop affordable housing in an effort to increase minority homeownership and lower the burden of housing costs for families to close the racial wealth gap.
NHS is proud to do its part reopening the City of Chicago. With our community, philanthropic, and business partners and residents, we hope to restore economic strength of our South and West side neighborhoods by fostering the creation of vibrant places to live, thereby, ultimately renewing the spirit of Chicago’s residents.
If you would like to make an immediate impact on your community, please support or volunteer with a community organization, educate and allow yourself to be educated, check in on your more vulnerable neighbors, or help an affected business in your area get back on its feet. And of course, if you are feeling financially stressed, we are here to support you as well.
Be safe. Be well.
We Are Stronger Together.