Statement from Rev. Fr. Douglas A. Greenaway
President & CEO of the National WIC Association
Last Night’s Verdict: A Step toward Our Collective Futures
Last evening, we learned of the unanimous verdict in the trial of the former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, judged guilty in George Floyd’s brutal death – captured on video for all Americans to see. What Black lives know, beyond certainty, is that his death, at the hands of abusive authority, is not an isolated event. The failure of generations to see and witness this truth is the millstone that hangs around the necks of the rest of us. Before there can be healing in America, there must be acknowledgment, contrition, and amendment of life.
Amid a decade of social reform, driven by the civil rights movement and the Poor People's Campaign, to end poverty and create opportunity for all Americans, the WIC Program was born. Its birth, in 1974, was an acknowledgment of the harsh poverty, undernourishment, and civic neglect witnessed in Appalachia, the rural South, and urban America. Before WIC’s birth, Americans had to be shown by television cameras the abject disparity that many of our neighbors suffered. It was only when we could no longer avert our eyes and at the urging of righteous leaders that we owned what we witnessed and were compelled to act.
Then, as now, our mandate was to empower WIC families to realize the power and strength of their often-silenced voices! We gave them tools to support health and life successes. That mission - our mission - is as critical now, as ever.
WIC resides at the crucial nexus of public health and social justice. Our families are of every ethnicity, race, culture, faith, and creed known to humankind. Their stories and circumstances are as diverse as the human condition. When we deliver our essential services with generous empathy and without judgment, the results tend toward success and the rewards are incalculable.
This calls us to leave our biases at the door, better still to work to unpack them and dispose of them. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rightly declared racism a public health threat. As public health workers, we must recognize this pernicious behavior plays out not just overtly, as in the streets of Minneapolis, but often through microaggressions in the worlds we each occupy – our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our faith communities, our social clubs, and our families.
The recent police brutality in Minneapolis and Virginia yields deep feelings of sadness and outrage. They are tragic reminders that we have much work to address racial bias and systemic racism in our country. When tragedies like the assault on Army Lt. Caron Nazario in Virginia, or the murders of Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, KY, Adam Toledo, in Chicago, IL, Daunte Wright, in Brooklyn Center, MN, and George Floyd occur, we are presented with the opportunity to look inward; to ask ourselves crucial questions of complicity. What part might we play, intentionally or unintentionally, in dismissing or embracing those near to us or far from us, those like us, or unlike us? What part might we play, intentionally or unintentionally, in aiding or ignoring those among us who are lost, who might perpetrate such violence?
Our WIC family joins in support of and in solidarity with our Black staff, colleagues, and participants who may see themselves or their family reflected in recent victims of police brutality. Anti-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) violence and racism are manifest when we fail to acknowledge and dismantle the structures, attitudes, and effects of white supremacy. We each have a part to play in turning this public health threat around, in working towards healthy, safe, equitable communities free from racism and violence.
NWA has taken the following steps to address equity, diversity, and inclusion in the WIC community:
NWA’s Board of Directors endorsed strategic priorities to grow WIC allies and accomplices to dismantle anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in the WIC program and community.
NWA has joined a chorus of other organizations – led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights – to call for federal statutory reforms that will address police accountability and use of force.