Across the nation, communities have been deeply affected and divided by the murder of George Floyd. His senseless death has become a symbol of the racial inequities that divide America. As an organization, we are saddened and disturbed at this senseless division.
Our vision at Bremerton Housing Authority is “…. a future where everyone has the opportunity for a home that is safe and affordable; people are treated with respect regardless of their income level or background; and a person’s income level cannot be identified by the neighborhood where they live.” Since the adoption of this vision a decade ago, I’d always focused on the word “opportunity” – making it a priority that BHA’s programs and properties created environments that nurtured personal growth and economic self-sufficiency among those we serve.
Now, however, I have shifted my focus to the words “everyone”, “people”, and “person” in BHA’s vision statement. We can no longer allow the systemic inequities that place one person beneath another because of the color of their skin. Yes, opportunity is still important. But opportunity means nothing if society places an individual at a disadvantage from birth because of their race or ethnicity.
So, what is to be done? How do we bridge the divides that exist among us and begin the healing from social injustices? We begin by being open and honest in acknowledging that divisions and biases exist. It is not someone else’s problem. It is our collective problem and we all have a part to play in making change. And we need to be personally willing to change. This change is deeply connected to our own attitudes about others.
I have long felt we fear the things we do not understand. Let us get out of our comfort zones and make sincere efforts to understand others, especially those that are different than ourselves.
Two-character traits we each would benefit from having an overabundance are respect and kindness. They go hand-in-hand. We are never too busy to be kind. Similarly, respect is a gift we should freely give to others. It is not something to be earned or meted out grudgingly. If there is any measure connected to respect, it is a measurement we control within us and shows our willingness to give it to others without conditions.
My friend, Andrew Lofton, Executive Director of the Seattle Housing Authority, recently shared these words: “(we) may not be able to change the world, but we can influence our own world. We can raise our voices, with words and actions that show each other and our entire community that we stand tall in the struggle against racism, bias, and hate. They have no place here.”
May we all recognize our part, small as it may be, in adopting attitudes and actions that reflect sincere kindness and human decency towards all.
Click here for BHA Vision, Mission and Statement of Values.