Health Justice CT

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“We can’t empower women, unless we eliminate racism…”

Research shows that a person’s race impacts where they might live, work, and play. Therefore issues of race and racism matter in the discussion about health disparities.  On Friday, April 29th YWCA associations across the country will be organizing “Stand Against Racism” events to raise awareness of the ongoing impact of racism.  This movement seeks to address the root causes of racism and encourages conversations across diverse communities in the United States.

To learn more about this movement, I spoke with Deborah Ullman, Chief Executive Officer of the YWCA Hartford Region. Below are excerpts of the interview:

HJCT: What ignited this annual event against racism?

DU:  This idea started with two YWCAs located in Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey. If you know anything about these two towns – they are very different demographically. Trenton is an urban, poor community and Princeton is Princeton. Geographically these two towns aren’t far apart, but you have a lot wealth, education and resources in one area and a lot of poverty in the other. Race has always been a factor for this segregation.   

So the two organizations came up with this idea to speak out against racism. They not only organized rallies about this issue, but decided to challenge individual organizations (i.e. Boys Scouts, faith based organizations, etc) to also stand against racism. This issue affects everyone, and this movement should include everyone. It is now nation-wide movement with over two thousand partnering organizations across the country.

HJCT: Why is this issue so critical to YWCA’s mission?

DU: Our mission is about eliminating racism and empowering women. We believe that you can never really empower women unless you eliminate racism.

I am not sure if we can eliminate racism in my lifetime, however, as a stepping stone, we need to make people understand what racism is. For instance, if you are Black, you’re likely to have had a conversation with your child about how to react when being confronted by law enforcement. But as a White person, like me, I never had to have that conversation with my child. Incidences like what happened in Florida remind us that the conversation about race has to continue. So a large focus about this movement is about creating awareness and educating the public. We have to talk about race and make people understand that racism still exists.

HJCT: How would you define a productive conversation on race?

DU: A productive conversation is when you are in a situation where trust is involved and are willing to be vulnerable and share personal insights. Both parties, the speaker and the listener, would leave the conversation with a greater understanding of one another.   

HJCT: What type of change would you like to see as a result of this event?

DU: We would like to see each person reach a realization of how racism impacts them as a person, either negatively or positively. And that’s goes for whether you’re a White person or a person of color. We’d like everyone to understand that racism impacts us all, and because of this, it is all of our duty to work towards eliminating it.

On Friday, please join the Hartford Region YWCA, the City of Hartford and the CT Multicultural Health Partnership at 550 Main Street in Hartford to “Stand Against Racism.”  Click here for more information about this event.

You can also find information here about other events being organized across the State or follow the conversation on twitter using this hashtag: #ywcahartfordstand

You can guarantee we’ll be following along.

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