Recent events should inspire all of us to recommit ourselves to racial justice. Coalfield Development has long been committed to diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity. But this is not enough. We are horrified by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and far too many others. We have to do more to transform racist systems so people of color can have true equity here in Appalachia and across the country. This is not about political correctness or public relations. This is about justice.
Too often, here in Appalachia, we assume racial justice is not our main issue because, “well, my county is 98% white.” This is not acceptable. Racial justice is our issue for several reasons: 1) an injustice in one place is an injustice everywhere, 2) we have more racial minorities than what many realize, and these folks are often even more isolated and marginalized than minorities in larger, more diverse areas, and 3) we will never reach our full potential as a region if we are not a truly diverse community where all kinds of people can reach their full potential, power, and purpose.
We know that systemic racism, violence, and centuries of oppression have placed barriers between communities and people of color and the ability to reach these goals. This is true throughout our entire country, and no less so here in Appalachia. And we know that as a predominantly white organization, we need to understand our role in the system; a system that is bigger than us, but one that we can better use our power and privilege to shape.
It might be tempting to say, “Well, racism is bad, but I’m not racist.” But this isn’t enough either. Because equity is so crucial, we can’t just not be racist, we have to learn how to be anti-racist. We know this is and will continue to be hard, hard work. Those of us who are white have to acknowledge and continually re-acknowledge our privilege. And we have to actively breakdown bad systems and then rebuild good ones.
We support those protesting for justice. We seek to listen and learn as much as we possibly can from the Black community. And we recommit to the work of building a truly just and equitable society.