Thoughts on Equity is a new blog series presented by the Kansas Health Foundation to feature written, video and audio content from president and CEO Teresa Miller. Through this blog, Teresa will discuss issues of equity, systemic racism, health disparities and how Kansans have the opportunity to shape a more equitable and inclusive future.
Today marks one year since the killing of George Floyd – the shocking 9 minutes and 29 seconds leading up to his death was not only captured for the world to see, but it was the tipping point to move our nation to do something about race. Beyond the thoughts and prayers, speeches, news stories and protests, it was the impetus for leaders, businesses, philanthropic organizations and nonprofits to pause, look at their work with a completely different lens and decide to leave behind previously-accepted practices and approaches.
Last summer, our Board of Directors had an initial discussion about what it really means for our mission “to improve the health of all Kansans,” and how addressing health disparities and racial equity are critical to that work. Until we can improve the health of those who experience health inequities, seek out permanent solutions for racial equity and justice, and commit to dismantling structural racism, there will continue to be inequities in our communities and state.
Our team will use this discussion as a guide as we begin to think about a new strategic plan. However, it’s more than just changing the words on a plan for when and where we give grants. Before we can even begin to think about these tactics, we need to collectively understand the underlying root causes of systemic racism and be more inclusive in listening to a broader range of partners, policymakers, advocates and residents. We also need to conduct an internal assessment of our work with a power and equity lens, to identify the gaps and opportunities in improving health for all Kansans. If we don’t understand the systemic barriers that individuals and families have faced for generations, we will never be able to dismantle them – and I believe KHF has a great responsibility to lead in practice and with solutions.
This anniversary reminds me of many other tragic anniversaries in our history that could have led to the elimination of structural racism, including April 4, 1968 (the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.) and May 31-June 1, 1921 (the Tulsa Race Massacre). We certainly cannot allow the spotlight to fade on May 25 and return to our previous ways. I am encouraged that active change efforts have been underway at the national level, including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in Congress. Our KHF opportunity is to find ways to use our resources, power and partnerships to tackle difficult policy issues that will dismantle and eliminate systemic racism and racial inequities in communities and at the state level in Kansas. We all know this was never just about what happened in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020 – but what is also happening closer to home. I hope you will join and support us as we become a better ally and champion for all Kansans.
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