from Brian Payne,
President, The Indianapolis Foundation
President & CEO of Central Indiana Community Foundation
For the past five years, Central Indiana Community Foundation (CICF) and its affiliates, The Indianapolis Foundation and Hamilton County Community Foundation, have been on a journey to deeply understand the breadth and depth of racism and racist systems in our city, state, region and country. It’s been more than a year since we met with almost 2,000 of you in Banker’s Life Fieldhouse and announced our new mission to mobilize people, ideas and investments to make this a community where all individuals have equitable opportunity to reach their full potential—no matter place, race or identity. We committed to no longer being a White power organization and pledged to become a shared power, anti-racist and multi-cultural organization. Dismantling systemic racism is now foundational to all of our community leadership efforts.
In spite of the challenges, we have been committed to and proud of our daily work towards that goal. We have proven to ourselves that “equity first” principles have truly become embedded in our organizations as we created our equity-based relief funds to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. We’ve galvanized our leadership and staff to be innovative and nontraditional in our practices to meet community need and support neighborhood assets. We share the grantmaking power of the Neighbor Relief Fund of Marion County with our Community Ambassadors and use what we learn from our Ambassadors to influence not only our partner relief funds but the core values of our work.
Now together as a community and as a country, we face a continued crisis but at a new tipping point in the pain and anger from broken promises and ultimate distrust of our criminal law system and our police departments.
Here’s what we know and where we stand:
- White privilege, power and silence can no longer be status quo. Change will only take place when White people own our responsibility in creating, perpetuating and now eliminating the problem.
- Systemic racism has led to the over-policing, under-protecting, harassment, brutalizing and death of innocent and unarmed Black Americans and other people of color nationwide and in Central Indiana.
- This cannot stand. It makes our Black and Brown neighbors feel unsafe, unappreciated and unheard. It causes family trauma, tragedy and divisiveness in our community.
- We mourn with the families and communities who have lost members to police violence.
- We join and support those fighting to overturn racist and unfair systems. We reiterate the demand for transparency and accountability.
- There are many who will spend the coming weeks focused on property damage. We want to spend our leadership and influence on changes in power and policy that bring an end to this and other systemically racist problems that rob Indianapolis of potential and possibly its future.
We know our mission will take generations to achieve. Still we believe that positive individual, organizational and systemic actions every day can make a difference in people’s lives and make Indianapolis a place where there is more hope, opportunity, equity, justice, achievement and prosperity.
If you are White and want to be part of the solution, take initiative and get informed. Read books. Watch documentaries. Listen to podcasts. Gather your friends and family and go on learning journeys. Also, support Black- and Brown-owned businesses, Black- and Brown-led not-for-profits and Black and Brown colleagues. Make a courageous effort to begin trustworthy relationships with Black and Brown neighbors, even if you don’t have any in your immediate neighborhood. Hoosier Hospitality means all Hoosiers are our neighbors. I know you are afraid you are going to say something stupid and you are right. You will. I have and, sometimes, still do. That’s where the little bit of courage comes in. It’s also where radical grace is usually offered by our Black and Brown neighbors who really still believe we White people will someday do the right thing.
As a White person who has benefited from unfair privilege and advantages, I personally pledge to use the inherent power my whiteness gives me in this country for the greater good. I ask you to join and support me, my colleagues and board members at CICF in this challenging but necessary work to dismantle unfair systems and create a community where everyone has an opportunity to thrive.