My Turn: Let’s get our own hands out of our pockets 

  • AP AP

Published: 6/11/2020 3:39:55 PM
Modified: 6/11/2020 3:39:42 PM

He had his hands in his pockets the whole time. Watching the gut-wrenching video chronicling of the killing of George Floyd, this is the part that unhinges me. Officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and had his hands in his pockets while doing so.

For the uneducated and untrained in law enforcement like me, it conveys a level of casualness that under the circumstances relays a profound callousness and inhumanity. Equally troubling, for those who have been trained in law enforcement, Chauvin’s having his hands in his pockets conveyed the absence of agitation, a lack of a stress response.

George Floyd is just the latest in a countless number of deaths of black and brown men and women at the hands of law enforcement — and we only know of the instances where folks were present and brave enough to capture events on their phones. Though racist police killings reach back much farther in history, just as with mass shootings, the cycle is now sickeningly familiar.

Public outrage develops after each instance and then our national attention is pivoted by something else. We don’t move forward from each incidence, we become numbed by a diversion. We wring our hands for a few hours, a few days or even a few weeks and then we put them back in our collective pockets, never using them to bring about real change.

Will this time be different? For The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts, it will. While we have made progress in the last few years in terms of racial equity — we are woman of color-led; a majority of our board of directors identify as women of color; this past year we made our first staff level hire of a person of color; we continue to invest in a program that centers young women of color; we are the fiscal sponsor of a women of color giving circle; and our community partner for our Young Women’s Initiative is woman of color-led — we must and will do more.

One of our strategic priorities is for women to achieve parity in positions of power. To date our approach has been to create and embed a leadership program encouraging public and political leadership. In light of George Floyd’s killing and the rampant racism we see, we will actively work to get more women, and particularly women of color into law enforcement and specifically into law enforcement leadership. We intend to offer scholarships to programs that align with this goal. Currently our pool of scholarship dollars is small but we hope that others will join us in this work with their donations to The Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.

We will continue to educate ourselves on the history of racism and bias and offer the opportunity to learn along with us to the women and girl serving nonprofits of our region. We will reflect on affirmatively expanding our mission to explicitly include anti-racism because we know that these are interlocking systems of oppression.

If we want different results we know we must act differently as a country, as an organization and in our individual lives. It’s beyond time we become uncomfortable and stayed that way until progress is made.

Donna Haghighat is the CEO of the Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts.

Please support the Greenfield Recorder's COVID-19 coverage

Thank you for your support of the Recorder.




Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906

 

Copyright © 2019 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy