"Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air" - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LA Times
We, the Executive Team at The Commit Partnership, want to acknowledge the pain, sadness and anger our community is collectively feeling given the continued unrest, unfair treatment and unjust practices that continue to impact Black men, women, youth, and entire communities throughout our society. Practices that have not only kept racism alive but have resulted in far too many deaths. The rate at which Black Americans are killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans. In 2019 police killed 1099 people in America, 24% of whom were Black. Yet we know these numbers merely scratch the surface of the lives stolen and harmed since the beginning of our country.
Year after year after year, messages like this one are written to talk about another death of another Black American due to police violence attributable to racist actions and biases that cause Black lives to be treated as less worthy of protection. We know that what happened to George Floyd was not an isolated incident given our recent national mournings over the untimely loss of Ahmaud Arbery (25 years old), Breonna Taylor (26 years old), Atatiana Jefferson (28 years old) and Botham Jean (26 years old). Their lives, and the lives of those whose deaths did not make national headlines, matter. Black lives matter.
What also matters are the dreams and aspirations of young Black, Latinx/Hispanic, American Indian students, as well as any other minority population and their parents who dream of a better life through education and employment, only to see that our inadequate resourcing and insufficient expectations and commitment to their economic mobility results in a dream perpetually deferred. Like many areas with a deep history of segregation, Dallas County has an entrenched language and practice of low expectations for Black students. Goals, dreams, and aspirations for Black and Latinx/Hispanic students are often expressed as a fraction of the dreams for White and affluent peers.
These tragic realities make our collective hearts ache and our voices cry out as to why they continue. Yet the non-Black members of Commit’s executive team also know that we will never fully grasp what it feels like to be Black in America. To all of our community, particularly our Black colleagues, partners and neighbors, we want you to know that we and many, many others see you and hear your pain. We stand behind you for strength, beside you in solidarity, and in front of you, when need be, to shield you with our unearned privilege.
Since its inception in 2012, the work at the Commit Partnership has always been mission-driven - in a region where 8 in 10 students live in households with limited incomes and/or are Black or Latinx/Hispanic, we continue to work closely with our partners towards a community that is inclusive, equitable and prosperous. A community of opportunity where race, place and socioeconomic status no longer predicts educational and economic attainment…a community that is finally able to shed the harmful impact of our country’s long history of oppressive and racist systems that created the inequitable outcomes we see today.
Our mission is why, over the last year, Commit has been intentionally engaging with our partners to think about what needs to be true, beyond education, to truly bring racial and socioeconomic equity to life -- equity that includes both student outcomes and economic attainment. We are reminded of the research and conversations we've had about the criminal justice system; access to affordable housing; food, health care and internet deserts; redlining; how to talk about institutional racism, implicit biases and the painful, often ignored history of our region. By focusing on our community, our strategy, and our people, we believe that we can positively act on what we are both seeing externally and feeling internally.
In the meantime, we relentlessly commit to our community the following:
- First, continuing to disaggregate data by race and family income and leveraging our analytical, communication and advocacy efforts even further in close partnership with our 200+ partners to accelerate the continued closure of racial and socioeconomic opportunity gaps throughout Dallas County;
- Second, working closely with others (particularly our early childhood, PK-12, higher education and employer partners) to support substantial increases in the attainment of living wage jobs and the elimination of racial disparities in their attainment. Today only 25% of Dallas County young adults ages 25-34 achieve a living wage of $50,000 or more, and currently whites are 3.1x more likely than their peers of color to reach that level of income. That is not the prosperous and inclusive community we all want for our children.
- Third, despite likely fiscal constraints, supporting efforts to help implement and protect all of the components of the landmark 2019 legislation known as House Bill 3, which brings additional, disproportionate funding and other resources to schools with students in homes with limited incomes. 90% of students in Dallas County living in poverty are Black or Latinx/Hispanic students, and in this post-COVID world, equitably and sufficiently investing in our children most in need is now even more important than ever before.
- Fourth, to continue to lift up approaches and practices which increase racial diversity in our schools, in our neighborhoods, and in our workplaces. To live together well, we must understand each other and the common aspirations we share.
- Finally, we commit to the talented people who choose to do this important work on our team to deepen our efforts even further to consistently be an equitable and inclusive organization that values the voices and inherent talent of all staff. This includes continuing existing efforts to implement equitable practices - from recruiting and selection, management practices and evaluation, developing a DEI policy and committing to ongoing conversations about race.
We encourage you to support organizations with missions focused on racial equity and/or providing support, services and opportunities to our local communities. A list of a few local organizations doing this work are included below.
Creating an inclusive, equitable and prosperous region where race, place and socioeconomic status no longer predicts educational and economic attainment should be the goal of every person living in Dallas County. We look forward to working with all of you, regardless of your background or life experiences, in making that goal a true reality.
The Executive Team of The Commit Partnership includes Dottie Smith, President; Todd Williams, Chairman, CEO and founder; and Managing Directors Erica Adams, Eric Ban, Ashwina Kirpalani, Kimberly Manns, Dominique McCain, and Norie Pride-Womack.
Dallas TRHT’s mission is to create a radically inclusive city by addressing race and racism through narrative change, relationship building and equitable policies and practices. Dallas TRHT has a vision of a Dallas where no North and South divisions exist in terms of race, wealth, arts, culture, health, safety, education and opportunity, and communities actively, honestly and openly acknowledge, repair and heal from its past and present racial inequities. They will be hosting virtual events soon, check their website for more information in the coming days. We also encourage you to learn more about the Dallas TRHT Racial Equity Now 2019-2020 Cohort.
Faith in Texas is a nonpartisan, multi-racial, multi-faith grassroots movement of people united in values working together to achieve economic, racial, and social justice for all people. Sign up to receive information from Faith in Texas.
Project Unity is a yearlong collaborative effort of programming and events hosted in partnership with segments of our community, including faith, business, civic, philanthropic, grassroots and government entities. Project Unity will be launching Together We Dine events on June 23 and June 30, check their website for more information in the coming days. Sign up to volunteer with Project Unity.
Founded by a former Commit staff member, For Oak Cliff is a culturally responsive organization serving the South Oak Cliff community. Through a focus on education, advocacy, and community building, For Oak Cliff is working to create opportunities that address the needs of both children and the adults in their lives with a goal of increasing social mobility and social capital.
Bachman Lake Together unites the community to give children in the Bachman Lake area of Dallas a strong foundation for the first five years so they can thrive in school and life. Their 10 year vision is to foster a community that nurtures thriving parents committed to raising young children who begin school ready to learn.