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    Changing the Conversation

    Racism and Youth Homelessness

    This post is taken from a transcript of comments by Jeff Olivet [JO] and Marc Dones [MD] at the White House Policy Briefing on Ending Youth Homelessness on June 3, 2016 sponsored by The White House, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, and True Colors Fund.

    [JO]: We have a problem. It is a problem that rarely gets named. We talk about health disparities. We talk about cultural competence. We talk about disproportionality. We sugarcoat the language and speak in euphemisms.

    What we do not say often enough or loudly enough is that racism and homelessness are inextricably linked. Yes, racism. It is time to speak truth. It is time to call it what it is.

    Healthcare Disparities: Is Racism in Play?

    We know that healthcare disparities exist! Statistics can tell us where disparities are occurring, which providers have the worst outcomes, and what medical decisions are contributing to the problem.

    Resolving healthcare disparities is hampered when we refuse to ask hard questions about conscious and unconscious bias among service providers and staff. For example, research on obesity has documented that physician attitudes greatly impact service use, quality, and outcomes. Studies on the impact of physician attitudes demonstrate that examining bias is critical for understanding how patients use services and how well they do.

    Trauma, Racism, Violence: Speaking Our Truth


    Trauma, racism, and violence

    I saw a black woman stopped by a policeman recently on what seemed like a routine traffic stop. Within a few minutes, another police cruiser arrived. The fact that three police officers were needed to discuss a seemingly simple traffic violation put those of us at a nearby bus stop on edge.

    It surprised me that my first reaction was to get out my phone and record the encounter in case things turned ugly. As I considered fishing my phone out of my purse and finding a good angle to record the events (while also protecting myself), the situation resolved itself, and all three cars sped away. Those of us who were left at the bus stop breathed a collective sigh of relief and went back to our normal morning commutes. While I was relieved that the situation resolved without incident, I felt deeply unsettled.

    Homelessness Is a Symptom of Racism

    The United States faces a deeply troublesome, maddeningly persistent racial gap in income and wealth -- a gap that is growing, not shrinking. According to McKernan and colleagues at the Urban Institute, the income ratio between whites and blacks is approximately 2:1, a number that has remained essentially unchanged over the past three decades. More troublesome is the 6:1 wealth ratio between whites and blacks. This suggests that white privilege dominates and results in greater financial prosperity for whites, while leaving black families and individuals out of the nation's economic growth and recovery.

    Homelessness, Racism and Social Justice

    Homelessness is not a social issue. It is not a research question to be studied. And it is certainly not a type of person: someone who ends up on the streets through a series of bad choices or personal flaws. Instead, homelessness mirrors everything that is broken in our society. It reflects our biases, our meanness, our lack of compassion and our views of each other as fellow human beings.

    Know Their Names

    Know Their Names, by Sarah Green, remembers the victims of the June 17th shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.

    We and Not Them

    In her last post, What Will You Do?" featured on Threads on June 19, Rachel Latta asked, “Will you join me in this conversation?” This post is a response to that call.

    What Will You Do?

    In the wake of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel church in Charleston, I find myself feeling overwhelmed with sadness, anger, and mostly, hopelessness about how to move forward. Perhaps my deepest concern is that nothing will change--that we will feel sadness, and then, we will move on with no societal response, and no movement toward change. As we did with Newtown. As we did with Columbine. Of course, we will not all move forward in the same way. For people of color, the reminder that even a religious building is not a safe sanctuary will have lasting and potentially devastating effects.

    Where Does Racism Start?

    Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Eric Garner. These black men’s deaths have sparked national outrage about the differential treatment of men of color by personnel in the criminal justice system.

    Racism is embedded in our institutions. Well-intentioned people carry out racist policies and become part of institutionalized racism, just by being a part of these systems. We need to start with a hard look at our policies and systems to understand how institutionalized racism has been codified. If we want to change the criminal justice systems, our efforts cannot just be targeted there. We need to start earlier in the process. We need to think about how other systems teach our future lawyers, police officers, and judges that discrimination against people of color, and specifically Black people, is acceptable and expected.

    Some People Don't Matter

    I am reeling from the decision that a New York police officer will not be indicted for killing Eric Garner.

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