Continuing the conversation on racial equity
by Brenda Campbell, President and CEO
In January 2020, program director Kristen Ruhl shared her thoughts about how SecureFutures could strengthen our commitment to racial equity, justice and inclusion. This piece grew out of continued conversations taking place among our leadership and staff about our shared dedication to these values and to finding new and deeper ways to put them into action through our mission of teen financial empowerment.
It’s been, to put it mildly, an eventful year. Since Kristen’s piece was written, a national conversation has arisen about how systemic injustice continues to affect the Black community and other communities of color. Disparities in wealth, opportunity, and access — disparities that existed long before this year’s events — have been thrown into sharper relief as we live through a global health and economic crisis. There’s been a lot of soul-searching, as those of us in positions of privilege within those systems grapple with our unexamined assumptions and our opportunities to do more.
In both my personal and professional lives, I’ve had unprecedented and uncomfortable conversations. I’ve had to figure out when to be patient with myself and others to allow space for learning and growth, and when it’s important to be clear and uncompromising. Within our team at SecureFutures, I’ve tried to create space for open dialogue as we work to more clearly articulate our organizational values and challenge each other to live them better.
These conversations have been difficult, but I think they’re a sign of hope. The change that’s necessary can’t happen if we stay where we’re comfortable. I’m proud of the way our team members have embraced that necessary discomfort, and I’m encouraged by their passion and new ideas.
There are other signs of hope, too. Businesses and organizations from many different sectors are taking on the difficult task of evaluating their own role in changing harmful systems. New positions have been added to focus on diversity and inclusion. Leaders are thinking more about representation and why that matters. Processes and products are being adapted to mitigate the harm caused by implicit biases. In the realm of philanthropy, new funding priorities have been established to refocus on racial equity efforts.
The important thing, of course, is to make sure these renewed efforts are sustainable over the long term. This can’t be a flash in the pan. That’s why, this year, the SecureFutures strategic plan includes a number of specific goals and action items focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion. We’re thinking about how we tell our stories, how we build curriculum, and how we recruit and educate staff, board,committee members, and volunteers.
As part of our commitment to educating ourselves and our constituents, we’ll be closely examining the ways in which our specific mission of teen financial empowerment relates to larger issues of equity such as banking practices, credit, mortgage lending, interest rates, and student loan debt. This is the first in a series of blog posts I’ll be writing on these topics, and I look forward to learning together.
This matters to us, and it’s worth the time to get it right. We’re looking to all of you who care about our mission to hold us accountable and keep us moving forward towards the goal we share: a society in which every person and community has access to what they need to succeed and thrive.