Statement on Racial Equity and Justice
June 11, 2020
The Food Bank was founded with one goal in mind: support the community. We are writing today with that same goal in mind. We are using our platform to speak up and take concrete action about the racial injustices in our country, and we encourage others to do the same. We stand in solidarity with the Black community at the University of Mississippi and across the country. Black lives matter.
The U.S. and the University of Mississippi both have a long history of racial injustices, and the impacts of these injustices are felt by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) every day. For example, Black people in the U.S. are disproportionately affected by hunger, poverty, and unemployment. Although this is just one aspect of the negative impacts of systemic racism, we chose to highlight it because it relates to our work as Food Bank. Here are some statistics from Feeding America about hunger among Black Americans:
- Black households face hunger and poverty at more than twice the rate of white, non-Hispanic households.
- The ten counties with the highest food insecurity rates in the nation are at least 60% Black. Seven of those ten counties are in Mississippi.
- Getting enough to eat is a consistent struggle for one in four Black children in the U.S.
The causes of racial inequities in the United States are complex. However, we will touch on a few in this statement. First, the U.S. has a history of discriminatory laws such as redlining, Jim Crow, and segregation. These laws have led to tangible setbacks for the Black community, such as individual/cultural prejudices; hiring discrimination; unequal access to housing, good public schools, and postsecondary education; and a lack of generational wealth. Combined, these factors contribute to modern-day income and opportunity inequality for Black Americans, which ultimately leads to disproportionate rates of poverty and hunger (inequality.org, Harvard Business Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland).
Racism is something that must be dismantled on a cultural, systemic, and individual level. Here are some ways that all of us can take action:
- Educate ourselves. There are many resources to learn about racism. Here are some movies/TV shows, books, and podcasts.
- Speak out. Racism exists on a structural and institutional level, but it also exists within families and communities. Take it upon yourself to create an active dialogue about racism and to respectfully educate family, friends, and coworkers on the impacts of their words. Even if racist words are said in a joking manner, they contribute to a culture that allows racism to persist on all levels.
- Listen to Black people and Black experiences. Furthermore, amplify Black voices instead of speaking over them.
- Sign petitions. There are numerous petitions on websites such as change.org that call for concrete action. Here are a few to get you started.
- Contact your elected officials to demand action. Here are the elected officials in Mississippi and in Oxford.
- Donate, if you can, to national and community organizations. Some national examples include Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and the Bail Project. If you’d like to make a difference in Oxford, please consider the Mississippi Center for Justice and the Mississippi Rising Coalition.
- Support Black-owned businesses. Here are some in Oxford.
- Vote for candidates you support and policies you would like to see enacted. If you need to register, visit vote.gov.
The Food Bank is committed to actively promoting diversity and inclusion among members and leadership so that all voices can be heard. Here are some direct actions we are taking in order to do so.
To take immediate action, the Food Bank is:
- Implementing a zero-tolerance policy for racism among our members and reworking our bylaws to include directives for education and dialogue in response to such behavior.
- Working to accommodate all cultures and traditions, especially when stocking food.
- Contributing to the campus dialogue about racial equity.
- Reaching out to other campus organizations that have BIPOC leadership and membership to learn more about what we can do.
To take long-term action, the Food Bank is:
- Committing to increasing outreach to BIPOC during our Executive Cabinet application process, volunteer recruitment processes, and marketing.
- Creating transparency in our outreach processes and in the racial makeup of our Executive Cabinet.
- Encouraging ongoing dialogue within our organization about diversity and inclusion to promote critical self-reflection.
- Continuing to learn about and exploring further ways to promote racial equity and antiracism.
- Holding ourselves accountable by rewriting our bylaws to include these specific commitments to diversity.
We encourage other campus organizations to take similar actions. Instead of just posting about racial equity, why don’t we question why it doesn’t exist in our organizations, and actively do something to change that? As a campus, we can and must do better.