Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Keystone Progress Stands with Black Lives Matter

The following statement was adopted by the boards of Keystone Progress and the Keystone Progress Education Fund:

Keystone Progress stands with the Black Lives Matter movement to address the pervasive problems of racial and economic justice that have stained our nation.

As an organization, we acknowledge the many ways in which Black people are denied basic human
rights and dignity. We acknowledge that Black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on their children and their families.  We acknowledge that Black men are locked up at
disproportionate rates, for disproportionate lengths of time, denying them a chance to be the fathers and sons and brothers their families want and need.  Keystone Progress is ready to have the difficult, messy, emotional, yet critical dialogue about institutional structures that put up barriers to advancement for Black people in this country.  And we acknowledge that the reason the lives of Black people — not ALL people — exist within these parameters is a consequence of a society built and run upon the realities of white privilege.

This structural racism is pervasive in our society - from police shootings to the courts to incarceration, and racial disparities persist in healthcare, housing, job opportunities, and education.

Black lives matter.  More than 500 people, a disproportionate number of them African-American, have been shot dead by police this year.  Others, such as Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas jail cell under suspicious circumstances, have died while in police custody.  Harassment based on race remains evident in too many routine police matters as well, evidenced by “stop and frisk” practices. All have serious health consequences from loss of life to serious injuries to exacerbating physical and mental health problems.​
Inequity in incarceration. With 5 percent of the world population, the United States has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. Though only one-fourth of the U.S. population combined, African-Americans and Latinos comprise 58 percent of the prisoners.  One in three African-American males born today is likely, under current trends, to spend time in prison. Arrests for drug offenses and minimum sentencing laws disproportionately affect African-Americans.
Racism remains a significant public health issue. Even with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, racial disparities continue in access to health services and health outcomes. African-Americans, for example, have shorter life expectancies, higher infant mortality rates, and higher rates of chronic illness, such as higher blood pressure, that can lead to strokes and diabetes than whites. Overall racial discrimination significantly contributes to stress and other adverse health factors.
African-Americans and Latinos have higher jobless rates than white Americans, and have been disproportionately affected by cuts in public-sector jobs, long a key area where ethnic minorities, who face greater racism in private employment, have traditionally had greater opportunity. A result is lower incomes and a wealth gap.
Each one of these areas, as well as racial disparities in other walks of life, such as education, housing and homelessness, and environmental racism, deserve attention, thoughtful consideration, meaningful discussion,from candidates for elected office, institutions, organizations, and every individual in an effort to move towards systemic solutions..

Keystone Progress supports efforts at comprehensive solutions including, but not limited to:

  • Comprehensive criminal justice reforms, including national standards for greater public oversight, accountability, and prosecution for rights violations, improved racial bias training, and diversity in hiring.
  • Systemic prison and sentencing reform to reduce mass incarcerations and disparities, and improved prison and jail health services.
  • Supporting what is widely known as “ban the box” so that employers consider a job candidate’s qualifications first, without the stigma of a criminal record. These initiatives provide applicants a fair chance by removing the conviction history question on the job application and delaying the background check inquiry until later in the hiring.
  • Genuine, universal guaranteed healthcare based on a single standard of quality care for everyone, best achieved by an upgraded and expanded Medicare for all that would help reduce racial disparities and discrimination in healthcare.
  • An end to austerity economic policies that disproportionately affect minority populations. Focus on increased revenue, not budget cuts, such as could be achieved by a tax on Wall Street speculation, closing loopholes that allow corporations to pay little or no tax on profits, and eliminating tax avoidance schemes such as "carried interest,” that could raise hundreds of billions of dollars annually for living-wage job; increased funding for healthcare, housing, and education; and robust action to combat climate change and environmental devastation that also hit low-income and minority communities in higher percentages.

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