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The State of Social Justice in Greater Cincinnati – Speech delivered at Community Shares Feb. 16. 2018 Annual Fundraiser, “For the Love of the Community” by CEO Michelle Dillingham
You are a woman between the ages of 15 and 24, your age group makes up almost two-thirds of new cases of Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, and because you live in Hamilton County, increasingly you have the highest chance than another young person in Ohio of getting a sexually transmitted infection, an STI. You are one of 47,209 people in 2017 who received STI testing and treatment without shame, guilt, or undue cost, thanks to Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio.
You are an immigrant woman who works third shift cleaning corporate offices downtown. Your rent takes up almost your whole check, and when your boss tells you healthcare is going up, you have no voice at work. When you walk home from the check cashing spot, you are assaulted and robbed. You are too afraid to report because you could be deported. But if you do get the courage to call you are denied your basic rights of having a translator provided to you, and your report is never filed. You live in constant fear and you are treated with disrespect even though you work hard and pay your taxes like everyone else.
You are a high school student and your pronoun is “they”, you identify as transgender. You are three times more likely to try and kill yourself as the other students in your class. You are more likely to miss school because you don’t feel safe, and you are bullied. You have a lot of fear about your future, and you are unsure if you can even be yourself when you get older and get a job, or get an apartment.
You are a 7 year old girl, and you and your 2 brothers live in South Fairmount. Your Mom finally got a place of your own after your family doubled up with your Aunt and her 2 kids in their 2-bedroom apartment for almost a year. You have asthma, so does your brother. Your life on average, will be about 20 years shorter than a girl your same age across town in Mt. Lookout, just because of where you live. You don’t get to go to summer camp, or play in the woods, or look through a telescope at the stars, or go on bike rides. Mom says your family just doesn’t have the money to do those things.
You are an African-American man. You have a one in six chance of going to prison at least one time in your life. You will live to an average age of 63.8 years, that’s about 10 years less your white counterpart. Your baby is 3 times more likely than your white counterpart to die before their first birthday. Our region continues to be one of the most racially segregated in the nation; so you are far more likely to experience housing discrimination, and you lost the most family wealth during the foreclosure crisis in the early 2000’s.
Your name is “Duke” and you are an American Pitbull Terrier. Your owner Jesse adopted you from a no-kill shelter. Later, you received affordable, compassionate care (they neutered you!). You were one of the lucky ones… because many thousands of other cats and dogs are killed within 2 weeks if they are not adopted.
These stories and thousands more make up our local, collective shared reality; they reflect just some of the challenges Community Shares member organizations serve.
How we assess “social justice” in large part can be done by looking at key indicators such as income mobility, educational attainment and employment access, and health.
For health, life expectancy can vary as much as 20 years based on the neighborhood you live in. So when we drill down, what drives that includes factors such as access to quality food, to available health care, to air quality. Community Shares is the only workplace giving federation that invites environmental initiatives into our membership.
For equality of opportunity the Cincinnati region is one of the lowest on a measure called “income mobility”, the ability for children who are born poor, to move into higher incomes as adults. Interestingly, one of the indicators for a “high mobility” region is the extent to which a community has access to civic engagement experiences and opportunities. Community Shares includes civic groups like Woman’s City Club, and the League of Women Voters’ Education Fund… a feminist choir MUSE! Organizations that are helping to create fairness and opportunity, and equitable access – knowing this is a key indicator in a community’s support to move the next generation out of poverty.
What does a socially just city look like? All those people (and animals) in our stories, they would have equality of opportunity, and they would have freedom to authentically express the totality of who they really are without fear of attack, hatred, and discrimination.
They would be able to achieve their fullest potential, their chosen goals in life, no matter what their social identity is, no matter their race, gender, or income…. Or where they live. That is social justice. The content of one’s character….THE DREAM.
Let’s not leave out environment – the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, our built environment. For without these we can’t even live to see a just city.
So, the state of social justice in our region is that we are doing very poorly on most of the indicators.
√ Indicators such as racial discrimination and segregation in the form of housing discrimination, family wealth, income, and health outcomes.
√ Income inequality between men and women, and hate crimes toward people because of their sexual orientation, laws on the books that allow landlords to discriminate based on sexual orientation.
√ The percentage of workers employed under the protections of a collective bargaining agreement, the incidents of unfair labor practices like wage theft.
√ Inequality of healthcare, easily assessed in measures of life expectancy, disease, and infant mortality.
√ Unequal treatment under the law, in almost every aspect of the criminal justice system the systemic inequalities are glaringly obvious.
But we do not despair.
It was the spiritual and moral call of people through time in our community who extended their very selves, giving to the poor, the stranger, the migrant, before the New Deal Programs. For years before there had been a small, committed philanthropy community who gave out of a desire to help, for the common good.
Community Shares supports those causes who empower individuals and groups to positively impact local social and environmental conditions, so we can create a region where everyone has equal opportunity, and can thrive. In times of crowdfunding and facebook birthday fundraisers and immediate emergency response social media campaigns– all important and worthy…. but this has created more challenges to get workers to “give at the office” in the same way we did even a few years ago.
Our work is to support those working in the justice, equity, and equality sphere who are offering programs and services – some direct, and some indirect. Those who are tackling the most challenging issues of our time: reproductive health care, gay marriage equality, the effects of mass incarceration, climate change, gender inequality, addiction and poverty, and more.
You are here because you already support our work. We are asking if you haven’t already to consider being a sustaining change agent to our critical work. Please sign up what you are comfortable giving, and know that your investment is an investment in a more just, equitable region where every person (and furry friend) can live authentically, in freedom, and love.
CEO Michelle Dillingham delivering keynote at “For the Love of the Community” annual fundraiser for Community Shares