Commitment to Address Systemic Racism and Reflections on Recent Events

As a state, we are only just beginning to reckon with what our Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) neighbors have been experiencing and expressing to the rest of us for years – there are two Minnesota experiences, and they differ because of systemic racism. While George Floyd’s murderer was held accountable for his actions this week, our community is suffering from yet another killing of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, along with many before him, at the hands of authorities. The work to address systemic racism in our communities, including the work of the Minnesota Elder Justice Center is not done. It’s just getting started.

Elder justice is directly tied to and intertwined with the inequities that disproportionately affect BIPOC communities. These inequities are built into our systems of health care, criminal justice, education, housing and urban planning, and economic support. MEJC is committed to supporting policies, structures, and practices in our state that address the health, well-being, happiness, and autonomy of every older adult.

As an organization focused on mobilizing communities to prevent and alleviate abuse, neglect and financial exploitation, we stand with our Minnesota neighbors who are suffering most profoundly from systemic racism and injustice. Our vision is to be a trusted resource that improves lives, communities, and systems with and on behalf of elders and vulnerable adults. We recognize that it is critically important to work for a more just, equitable, and inclusive future for Black and Indigenous communities and people of color across the state of Minnesota, if we are to truly embrace the vision of our organization.

This vision is guiding our efforts to more fully dismantle the elements of inequity, exclusion, and racism within our own organization. This vision is influencing the ways in which we build partnerships and relationships, develop policies and systemic responses, and provide services and support to individuals in every community across the state. This is the work our board and staff at MEJC are embarking on and committed to now.

Seven months ago, we formally began our journey to examine the systemic racism within our own conversations and practices at the MEJC, engaging in collective reflection and discussion to deepen our understanding of how our actions may not have aligned with our vision of becoming a trusted resource for all Minnesotans. The MEJC board and staff are collaborating to review our policies, our work culture, and our operational systems to remove potentially discriminatory, non-inclusive practices that inequitably allocate power and resources.

The Minnesota Elder Justice Center stands ready to lead when appropriate, and to step back to support our partner organizations, when theirs are the voices that should be heard. We have only just begun this work, and we recognize this is an ongoing commitment. We will continue to seek to listen, to learn, and to apply new knowledge while identifying how we must change to ensure we are a trusted resource for all communities in Minnesota, especially the communities most marginalized and oppressed by systemic injustices.