This July 4 holiday, we celebrate the 244th anniversary of the United States’ declaration of independence. In that time, we have borne witness to truly remarkable achievements as a nation. From the unlikely triumph of simple farm hands over an empire, to man walking on the surface of the moon, the United States served as a beacon of innovation, leadership and hope.
Though in recognizing our achievements and triumphs, we must also identify, evaluate and address our failures.
Since before the inception of our American experiment, individuals and communities of color have faced enslavement and persecution. Today, people of color still face the realities of entrenched, systemic racism and discrimination. Perhaps one of the largest failings in our country’s history is the continued denial of equal access in housing based on race.
Throughout the history of the United States, discriminatory housing practices – both legal and illegal – have created hyper segregation of communities based on race, religion and ethnic background. After the Civil War, Jim Crow Laws ensured that black people were unable to successfully finance and purchase land and property. Post-World War II, black veterans were denied the same employment and educational opportunities afforded to white soldiers under the G.I. Bill – leading to less economic mobility than their white counterparts, who were able to purchase homes in new suburban enclaves. Where one lives impacts an individual’s well-being by determining their access to quality education, job opportunities and healthcare. This history – and the sum of countless more laws, regulations and ordinances – has fostered a housing system that unequivocally denies equal opportunity and access to communities of color.
For too long, these issues have been ignored – swept under the rug by citizens and leaders unable or unwilling to face simple truths. In recent weeks, we’ve seen a unification of people of all backgrounds committing to the cause of addressing racism in fundamental institutions. Now is a time for action. Silence is no longer an option.
Next year is another important anniversary – Next Step’s 10th year of creating more affordable housing opportunities for everyone. While our mission has always served individuals and families regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or belief, we recognize that we can do more to serve the affordable housing needs of communities of color.
As we look to 2021 and beyond Next Step is dedicated to creating more diversity within our Board and staff, actively seeking partnerships with organizations that serve communities of color, and advocating for policies that ensure equal access to housing opportunities. We hope to keep an active dialogue with all of our stakeholders and partners – and we look with optimism toward creating more diverse, healthier and inclusive communities.