June 12, 2020 – Portland, ME
Like all of you, we are outraged by George Floyd’s horrific death and the experience of Black people in this country. Over 1,200 Black people have been killed by police over the last five years. Tragically we have all become familiar with many of their names. Black Americans are killed by the police at three times the rate of White Americans. This is unacceptable.
We fully support the Black Lives Matter movement and the many organizations that are working tirelessly to stop police brutality and racism in America. We join them in the long battle ahead to rebuild our society.
The growing national conversation around racial justice, when combined with COVID-19 pandemic on the community, have caused us pause and reflect on our role in combating racism.
The statistics are startling. Black Mainers are 10 times more likely to have COVID-19 than White Mainers. Black people’s financial well-being has also been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Our work with immigrants has always highlighted racial inequality, with the Black immigrants we serve having significantly less access to job opportunities, healthcare, affordable housing, and financial services due to the structural racism built into our communities. While we always knew racism was a major contributor to Black immigrant experiences, we recognize that we can, should, and WILL do more to address racism in our programs and services.
It is clear that economic empowerment is a critical way to fight racism in our country and economic empowerment is what we do every day. We are passionate about the work we do to educate immigrants about our financial systems, provide access to higher education through scholarships, provide the counsel and support anyone would need when moving to a new country, and facilitate low-interest notes for security deposits for safe, affordable housing. These programs and services provide the essential components of building economic success in our country, the beginnings of the so-called “American Dream”. Yet when you examine each of these essential components, they are deeply impacted by the structural racism that prevents the American Dream from fully manifesting for People of Color.
We recognize that the structural racism that impacts our programs MUST be addressed in order for us to fulfill our purpose of empowering immigrants to economically succeed in our communities. We work with many community partners and we have given thought to how we will work proactively side-by-side with each of them to dismantle systemic racism:
When working with our many partners, we will provide systemic racism education and facilitate ongoing discussions to address systemic racism in the delivery of financial services, including but certainly not limited to customer service, access to personal, business and mortgage loans, extension of credit, and the elimination of predatory debt-based products.
We will partner with Maine educational institutions to first understand and then collaborate with their diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, with a focus on how those programs will impact the education and experience of our scholarship recipients.
In our programming, we will determine the best ways to ensure the immigrants we serve have the necessary support and resources to overcome the structural racism they experience in their daily lives.
It is only through our collective actions that we will dismantle the systemic racism experienced by Black people in our society. We recognize that it is not enough to speak out. We must hold ourselves accountable to taking action.
When immigrants arrive in the US, often having escaped unspeakable violence and persecution, they arrive with the hope of a better life. There are already significant barriers to building a new life in a new country. We do not accept that racism is a barrier anyone should have to navigate. We must and will take continual, sustained action on behalf of the immigrants we serve to fully empower their economic success.
We hope and trust that all our community partners will join us.
Yours in Solidarity,
The ProsperityME Board and Staff.