“We must do better. We must be better.”
Those recent words from Cheri Beasley, Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, speak to what’s in our hearts right now.
Like you, we recoiled in horror at the image of a police officer kneeling on the neck of a handcuffed and helpless George Floyd.
Like you, we felt inspired by the sight of multi-racial crowds in cities across the Carolinas and the nation, raising their voices peacefully in protest of Mr. Floyd’s death, and against a shameful legacy of unequal justice imposed on generations of black and brown people in this country.
Our founder, James B. Duke, knew America couldn’t live out its full potential while systematically holding back an entire group of citizens based on skin color. That’s why, in creating The Duke Endowment 95 years ago, he committed part of his resources to help segregated black hospitals, support orphaned children of all races, and assist historically black Johnson C. Smith University as a named beneficiary.
The problem he recognized then remains with us now. While we all feel the pain of this moment, African Americans have been harmed most particularly. They feel its sting most acutely.
We hear the voices of those calling for constructive dialogue and positive, lasting reform. We stand with you, and commit to being part of the solution. We will survey our own internal and external operations through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens, and identify opportunities to improve our work.
We will also join other foundations and nonprofits across the Carolinas to lift these issues up, and to push for positive social change.
The necessary conversations will be difficult at times. The actions taken won’t always draw unanimous agreement. But as we watch the waves of anger, sadness and pain pulsing through the country, we know the status quo is not acceptable.
Our work is rooted in an unshakable belief in the power and possibility of social change. We see evidence daily in the work of partners we support – organizations that are nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits.
Mr. Duke directed us to improve life in the Carolinas. But we know we cannot truly improve the lives of all Carolinians without addressing the lasting, systematic harms people of color endure.
It took centuries to weave unjust policies and practices into the fabric of our society. It will take an entire nation, pulling together, to unravel them.
We renew our determination to do our part.