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Statement on Ferguson, Missouri

Contact: Omar Hussain

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – The Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, has once again focused attention on an unarmed person of color losing his life in a situation that certainly appears should have been avoidable.  This has become an all too familiar scenario in America.  The deaths of Fong Lee, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and countless others, demonstrate that the law enforcement and justice systems in our nation are broken, and must be immediately addressed.  

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) is saddened by this tragic loss of young lives, and also by the reaction – violence and looting by some protesters and the heavy-handed response from some authorities, scenes that have brought back visions of the 1960’s when civil rights activists were met with force in the streets.    

This is not the America that we want for our children.

WKKF is working to create conditions where vulnerable children of all races can thrive and be successful. Since the birth of our nation, racial privilege and structural inequities have influenced the nation’s policies and social systems, from justice and law enforcement to healthcare, education and child welfare and other facets of everyday life.  In America, those who differ from the majority because of race, color, sexual orientation, religion, gender, weight and other characteristics face a deluge of outright discrimination and unconscious bias.

As the nation addresses the system failures that have contributed to the deaths of Brown and the others, we must also acknowledge the role that racism plays in these tragedies. WKKF believes that racial healing must be a major component of the prescription that takes our nation on a course toward equality and justice for all.  Our America Healing initiative has been helping communities bridge their racial divides and move forward together.  We will continue those efforts through our grantees across the country.  For instance, the Advancement Project works to end the “schoolhouse to jailhouse” track and has been instrumental in addressing the vast racial disparities in discipline at the nation’s public schools. In Mississippi, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation is bringing diverse communities together with programs such as the one that makes civil rights and human rights curriculum available for all students.  And in Chicago, the North Lawndale Employment Network helps formerly incarcerated individuals transcend labels and stereotypes to become productive members of their local communities. 

WKKF proudly supports the work of Phillip Atiba Goff, Ph.D., president of the Center for Policing Equity, who is at the forefront in helping police departments understand how their officers’ unconscious biases can affect their police work and their attitudes toward the people they serve.    

We want our law enforcement authorities to better understand that just because someone is of a different race, gender or sexual orientation, it doesn’t make them a criminal; it doesn’t give a license to end the life of an unarmed man or woman. 

WKKF is a partner in the Executive Alliance, a collaboration of some 40-plus foundations focused on changing conditions for young men of color, and by extension, young women of color.  These partnerships are important components of change.  We must have communities working together with law enforcement, but that only comes when there is trust from both sides. We don’t have that today.

We can have the America that we envision.  But it will take work from all of us. And it will take healing.

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