Judy H. Kluger is Executive Director at Sanctuary for Families.
I am outraged and heartbroken. The last few weeks have once again laid bare what every Black and Brown person growing up in America knows: racism pervades all aspects of American life. As service providers and advocates for survivors, we cannot effectively address the issue of gender-based violence – one that disproportionately affects Black and Brown women and girls – without also combating the oppressive systems that make these populations more vulnerable and holding to account those who promulgate racism.
Sanctuary for Families stands in solidarity with the families and friends of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, the countless unarmed Black and Brown people who have been killed, and those standing against racial injustice everywhere.
These are challenging times for so many, but particularly for communities of color, including members of the Sanctuary community, whose health and safety during this pandemic are all the more precarious due to inequalities and discriminatory practices inherent in our healthcare system. Against the backdrop of these recent events, I wanted to share a bit more about how Sanctuary is working to address racism and steps I am taking to challenge myself and bring about change.
Sanctuary has always stood against racism and discrimination, but we know our work needs to be more intentional – to be actively anti-racist. Over the last few years, we’ve made anti-racism trainings mandatory for all new staff, and have incorporated trainings on micro-aggressions and inclusion into our regular training curriculum. We brought on a consultant and formed a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee to help drive this work. The conversations we have had as an agency have been hard, and we know this is just the beginning. Our work must continue.
Of course, this work isn’t new to us. The majority of those we serve – women of color, many immigrants, and mothers living below the poverty line – are processing the trauma of the abuse they’ve experienced as well as the latent trauma of racism. As advocates for our clients, we fight against the racism and discrimination inherent in our systems and institutions daily.
We must hold ourselves accountable for the role each of us plays within these systems of injustice and recommit to doing the work needed to bring about change. Here’s how we can each start:
- Read, Learn & Share. Here are some pieces I’ve been reading and watching – The New York Times: Remember, No One is Coming to Save Us, Huffington Post: The Shooting of Black Americans Started Long Before the Looting, The Atlantic: The American Nightmare, Trevor Noah: George Floyd and the Dominos of Social Justice, and The New York Times: Why Amy Cooper’s Use of ‘African American’ Stung. I’m also adding many of these books to my reading list.
- Envision a Community of Care. Talk to our friends, families, and communities about race. Learn how to start a conversation.
- Take Action. Sanctuary has joined agencies across New York advocating for the repeal of State Law 50-A. The repeal would provide much-needed accountability to police misconduct and transparency to disciplinary proceedings. Join the Brooklyn NAACP’s campaign and urge your State representatives to support the full repeal of 50-A.
These are difficult issues that demand our attention and action beyond this moment. I hope you will take time this weekend and in the future to read articles, listen to podcasts, and watch videos with perspectives that challenge you. And to those enmeshed in this work, I hope you take time to rest and practice self-care.
For over 35 years, Sanctuary has worked to build a world in which freedom from gender violence is a basic human right. Our work is inherently bound to the broader fight against racism and structural inequality. Only by addressing both in tandem will we achieve our mission.
Hon. Judy H. Kluger
Executive Director, Sanctuary for Families