Pittsburgh is a city where we say there is no room for hate. Where, when we are met with adversity, we pull together to take care of our neighbors and come out stronger. In the past two weeks we have seen our neighbors and communities here and throughout the country and world demonstrating their grief, trauma, pain and anger. They are walking through the streets in honor of George Floyd. I’ve heard many people call this a moment – it is not a moment. This is the culmination of years and generations of racism – using housing regulations, employment barriers, education quality and inability to access other structures to negatively impact black people by not allowing them to have the same access to opportunities that other neighbors have.
George Floyd is not a moment. He was a man with family and loved ones. His inexcusable death has motivated our communities to demonstrate the grief, trauma and pain that our black communities are consistently exposed to. We must listen.
We all have pain. We all have grief and trauma. The City of Pittsburgh’s primary responsibility will always be to protect the health and safety of the people here. But when the color of your skin in this city and this country determines whether or not you will survive childbirth or makes you significantly more likely to develop health problems or controls how likely you are to get employment let alone upper-level management or leadership positions – we're not protecting all of our neighbors. When people in our city fear our civil servants and officers — we’re not protecting all of our neighbors.
We’ve seen the power of policy to oppress our black neighbors over the past several hundred years. In our own city, our black neighborhoods were not just created by our black neighbors. They were created through the practice of redlining where banks denied loans to black people – veterans returning back from World War II with the same GI Bills as their white comrades – because the banks had set up desirable and undesirable neighborhoods and used policy regulations to give mortgages in one or the other based on race.
What we have now is the power to use policy to build up our black neighbors and give them the opportunities that have been historically denied to them. That’s why equity has been a priority of this administration. It’s why we were the fifth city in the United States to create the Office of Equity to serve and advocate policy, services and programs for our most vulnerable residents. It’s why all senior officials from all city departments and authorities attended racial equity training and are using their training to make budgetary allocations to promote racial equity – to ask a simple but powerful question when making decisions: “How does this affect black residents?” It’s why we have Registered Community Organizations so all developers are required to meet with local residents and communities before their development plans in a neighborhood can even be reviewed by the city. It’s why we fund Learn & Earn and Rec to Tech for our youngest neighbors. It’s why we invest in minority and women-owned businesses. It's why we were one of only six cities chosen to launch President Obama’s 21st century policing initiative model and require all police officers to complete implicit bias training, a training we have expanded to employees across the city. While these are important steps for our city, it's clear that more must be done. It’s critical that our communities’ voices are heard in our policies and their needs are met through our policies.
Reform doesn’t happen overnight and we don’t have all the answers right now, but the work has begun and we will continue to work directly with our communities to create a city that’s livable for all. Black neighbors, residents, partners – we hear you. Your voice is important and necessary to rebuilding. We will have phases of policy reform and we’ll talk and walk together the whole way. We will better collect racial and demographic data so that we know who we are serving and who we are not so we can do better.
I do believe that we are a city where when we are met with adversity, we pull together to take care of our neighbors and come out stronger. It’s time again for us to go to work. Let’s work harder and let’s work better for ALL of our neighbors. Especially our black neighbors who need our support right now. Our Black Neighbors Matter. Black Lives Matter.