Our Opinion: Turning justified outrage into concrete action
The death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody and similar incidents of late have caused a sea change in America on the problem of institutional violence against Black Americans. It is clear that a breaking point was reached and there is no turning back from it. The challenge now is to channel the anger voiced in protests into action that will create change for the better.
A number of Berkshire institutions have already addressed the issue or established plans to do so. ("Anti-racism work climbs agenda for Berkshires arts, business groups, Eagle June 29.) All the responses are well-meaning but some of the changes may not be easy to make.
The Berkshire nonprofit Bridge has long been confronting racism and pushing diversity programs. Chief Executive Gwendolyn VanSant cautioned that there are groups that are only now beginning to talk about race and must catch up to those that have embraced diversity programs. The latter groups, said Ms. VanSant, must evaluate their successes and failures going forward.
Along those lines in the cultural arena, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown is assessing how well it has done to encourage diversity and exploring ways of doing better. Jacob's Pillow in Becket will seek to diversify its staff and board and ask minority artists to evaluate its racial efforts. WAM Theater in Pittsfield has and will continue to reach out to Black artists and seek to back them financially.
In the business community, Berkshire Roots is donating $7,500 to causes battling systemic racism. Berkshire Bank brought in an impressively credentialed panel for a two-day panel discussion earlier this month on the economic impact of racism in America and will pursue ways of investing financial resources in the minority community.
This is a sample of the efforts going on in the Berkshires, and if well-executed and dedicated to the long haul they will make a positive impact. Systemic racism is deep-rooted in the United States and it will take a diligent, ongoing effort in communities in the Berkshires and across the nation to address racism down to its roots.
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