After the Statement

  August 28, 2020

The “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial. DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

Three months after the death of George Floyd, the United States is convulsing with the horror of yet another police shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, who was shot seven times at close range in front of his three sons. The protests erupting across the country are based on hundreds of years of oppression of Black and African American communities. The pain, the fear, and the everyday trauma of police encounters among Black and Communities of Color is a constant reminder that a reckoning over racial justice in America is long overdue. We should not need such a stark reminder of the importance of sustaining our attention to end police brutality and the systemic racism that allows for this violence to continue. Achieving racial justice, or even moving closer to it, requires a movement, not a moment.

On June 5, PartnersGlobal made a public commitment to work to end systemic racism, and to face white privilege in our own organization, our field of international development, and our society.During the pandemic it has been a challenge to convene such sensitive and important conversations about racism, anti-blackness and white privilege as it applies to our office culture and our work since our team has been working remotely. Yet, we remain fully committed to doing the hard work to build a race equity culture at Partners and across the world.

What has been happening since we, and other organizations in our sector, made those statements?

  • Awareness and Analysis, Prior to Action: Our very diverse staff in DC has engaged in deep discussions about how white privilege plays out in our office and work. Building on the Liberatory Conscious Model developed by Barbara Love, we have started with our own Awareness of implicit racism, conducting Analysis of how this affects our team and partners, and facing Accountability before moving to Actions needed to break down systemic racism. This article by Catherine Pugh reminds us that this is not the work of our Black colleagues. Attendance at the webinars on Whiteness at Work and follow-up reflections are all optional for Black staff members.
  • Commitment of Leadership: Our board of directors issued a statement of support and commitment at our June board meeting; and we have since convened a sub-committee on board nominations with a mandate to increase diverse representation on the board. Many staff discussions have ensued about the role of the board of directors for a non-profit like PartnersGlobal, and how the board recruitment and selection processes reflect diversity, equity and inclusion principles.
  • Racial Equity Action at Partners: We held a training on linguistic racism for our staff to reflect on how our written and verbal communications may perpetuate white supremacy. We asked our team to consider the implications of words and phrases in the international development field that fail to validate all identities and uphold respect for every person. As part of our commitment to building a race equity culture, we are developing a writing style guide to ensure that we eradicate any terms or language in any of our materials that promote a colonial mindset and relationships.
  • Systemic Change in the Aid Industry: We are proud of PartnersGlobal’s founding business model. Since 1989, we have invested in civil society organizations across the globe — autonomous, locally led non-profits that form the Partners Network. Yet, we recognize that the international aid industry is broken and in dire need of reform. While we focus on internal changes at PartnersGlobal, we cannot stop working for systemic change in our field. What capacities do we need to change? How will our team evolve to get there? This article by Mary Ann Clements offers great advice and resources.
The “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial. DREW ANGERER/GETTY IMAGES

As the March on Washington returns to our nation’s capital on August 28, 2020 to commemorate the historic 1963 civil rights March, simply saying “Black Lives Matter” isn’t enough.  Demands for police reform, criminal justice reform, and racial equality require of all of us a lifelong commitment to ensure that statements declaring our allegiance to the cause of antiracism are not empty gestures.