Taking a Stand Against Racism

By Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., CEO of the YWCA USA

YWCA USA has been fighting for social justice since 1858, and we honor Starbuck's CEO Howard Schultz' desire to encourage a national dialogue on racism through the "Race Together" initiative.

Fighting for racial justice is not easy -- and those who do so open themselves to criticism. Working to eliminate racism requires fortitude, courage and a willingness to make a mistake. It also requires clear intent and clarity of the intended outcome.

The YWCA knows that this work is tough and we have a vision for how we will eliminate racism that welcomes Howard Schultz and anyone else who is willing to work to bring that vision to life.

YWCA USA believes that the institutional and structural inequities that perpetuate racism and social injustice must be addressed vigorously and systematically, by raising awareness, pursuing public policy advocacy and involving individuals in programs. While encouraging discussion is a good start, we know that structural and institutional racism cannot be chipped away one conversation at a time. Discussions can help, but they should be complemented with programs that raise awareness about racism and train individuals as well as organizations to stamp it out.

To that end, the YWCA -- with more than 200 local associations in 47 states -- invites Mr. Schultz, Starbucks and everyone to participate in our annual Stand Against Racism campaign, beginning with a National Day of Action on April 23.

On that day, I will join local YWCA representatives on Capitol Hill to press for passage of the End Racial Profiling Act - legislation that would ban racial profiling at the federal, state and local levels. In meetings with lawmakers and their staffs we will discuss the harm racial profiling does to our communities, including perpetuating the assumption that people of color are more likely to commit crimes. And, we will show lawmakers how our local associations are working now with police on ways to stop racial profiling. YWCA's will highlight their work in communities across the United States to eliminate racism, and the barriers it presents for people of color to health care, housing, education, jobs and advancement.

Yes, one-on-one dialogue can be an important part of raising individual awareness about racism and social injustice. We encourage productive conversations around these issues in classrooms, churches, YWCAs, homes - and over a cup of coffee at Starbucks. But the dialogue cannot stop when the coffee is finished. Dialogue must be coupled with an investment to increase our skills and capacities so that we are not only aware of the problem of racism, but that we strategize and act to transform our systems, policies and practices. We encourage people to join us April 23-26 -- take a stand, advocate, use your voice, transform your community #Stand Against Racism.

And we invite Howard Schultz to join us in action -- and bring the coffee!

Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron is the CEO of the YWCA USA, one of the oldest and largest multicultural women's organizations in the country. For more than 150 years, the YWCA has spoken out and taken action on behalf of women and girls. The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. The YWCA USA has more than 220 associations throughout the country and services are provided in over 1,200 locations across the nation.