CommunicationFIRST Stands in Solidarity with All Those Impacted by Racial Injustice

"Black lives matter" in yellow all-caps text super-imposed on a black and white photo of demonstratorsCommunicationFIRST stands in solidarity with black and brown communities in their fight for justice and in their pursuit of equal treatment under the law. We condemn the continued murders of people of color, not only most recently of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, but the young and old throughout history including Julia & Frazier Baker, Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson & Cynthia Wesley, Samuel Ephesians Hammond Jr., Delano Herman Middleton & Henry Ezekial Smith, James Byrd, Jr., Stephon Clark, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, and the Charleston Nine. These horrific deaths represent a sickening, detestable, long-standing pattern of institutionalized racism that permeates our society, including within the criminal justice system.

Racism was created by cowardly, inhumane white people scared to lose control over the “power” they perceived to have, not by people of color. Systemic racism exists to support and protect white privilege…white supremacy, and to keep people of color despondent and subdued. Therefore it is not the responsibility of black and brown people to tear it down. White allies need to step up to the plate now, openly denounce systemic racism in all its forms, and be a part of the solution.

As a civil rights organization fighting for the basic rights and protections of individuals with speech disabilities, we strive to grow in our understanding of conditions that affect us.  Our vision statement partially states: “Every person with a speech-related disability or condition will … enjoy equal rights, meaningful inclusion and dignity, and freedom from all forms of degradation, discrimination, and abuse.” We are committed to ensure those we serve not only enjoy such freedoms regardless of their disability, but notwithstanding the color of their skin.

We feel, I feel, the responsibility to not just talk about diversity, equity, and Inclusion through a disability lens, but to make meaningful changes and contributions for all demographics facing such injustices, especially through a racial and ethnic lens. To be stronger together, we must recognize that we have members that are angry and scared; members who may feel as a nation we haven’t fully availed the American dream of equal opportunity and the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all amongst us.

Recognizing that this is a time of mourning, a time of learning, and a time of reflection, we stand with our members who are in pain and pray not only for peace but for justice. We stand in solidarity with our black and brown members and publicly commit to do anti-racist work within our organization. We ask our white members to take the time to self-reflect in ways we can participate to create an anti-racist world. We stand together with all who work to end racial injustice. We must have real, honest dialogue about how we can move forward and enact change; as human beings and as an organization. Inclusive leadership and being a good ally begins with mutual respect. It can start with the simple question of “how are you doing,” and acts of respectful and empathetic listening.

Racism will not be defeated solely through the actions of those affected. We must work together toward this common goal. We will not, we cannot, be silent.

With you in friendship, with you in justice, with you in peace, with you in love, we affirm that #BlackLivesMatter.

India Ochs
Chair, CommunicationFIRST