NYF Huggie Rectangle

Statement from The Foundling

Bill Baccaglini, President and CEO

We are in the middle of a storm—in New York City and across the nation. It is unfathomable to think that so many members of our communities: colleagues, friends, and loved ones – our “gorgeous mosaic” of many races and nationalities – are living in fear.

I cannot say that I know what it’s like to be a person of color, but I know enough to recognize deep, systemic problems when I see them. We all know they exist – that’s why many of us have chosen to work at The Foundling – to try to bridge some of those gaps and heal some of that suffering.

Our opportunity structure is broken and it has been for generations. Black and brown children go to schools, play in parks, and live in neighborhoods with fewer resources and services than those typically utilized by white children. And they are going to grow up with less access to quality healthcare – something made apparent by the disparate impact of COVID-19. Our clients and our staff, the overwhelming majority of whom are non-white, live this reality every day and we see the effects of these structural inequities.

And now, over and over, we have seen the difference in how black and brown people experience the criminal justice system. Each time, we all vow “never again.” How many times can we say “never again?”

This is not a New York City problem, it’s not an Atlanta problem, and it’s not a Minneapolis problem. It’s not a few isolated and unrelated incidents – this is a profound, systemic, American problem. We cannot allow ourselves, as the deniers would like, to analyze each incident – each killing of a person of color – as a separate event. We cannot continue to allow our political leaders to settle for marginal remedies that fail to address the larger condition.

The Foundling has represented, supported, and served people facing hardship in New York for over 150 years – people of all colors, religions, backgrounds, and beliefs. We represent those who feel voiceless and vulnerable, whose opportunities are limited.  Every member of our team is committed to serving people in need, to working in our communities, to saving lives. We are all in pain.

We cannot allow this issue to devolve into discussions about looters – a small number of people whose mission is to hijack a peaceful movement to create chaos for their own personal gain. These individuals give credibility to the deniers, who use the looting as a justification for their dismissal of the tragedy that is taking place and the larger issues at hand.

The stakes are higher than ever and we need our elected leaders to rise to the challenge. We need reforms that are equal to this moment. At The Foundling, we have focused on education for the past 15 years, not because we began with any expertise in the field, but to find ways of rebalancing the opportunity structure for black and brown children in our City. Our hope was that if we could intervene in the educational experience for one generation, we could reset the opportunity structure in an enduring way.  But we are one organization, with limited scope and resources. Much more is needed in the fight against racism and racial injustice.  Government must step up.

Leaders in every city in America must resolve to change. They must understand the urgency of this situation and rise to the challenge. There can be no greater priority than to recognize the very real pain that exists, to work to restore faith in our institutions, and to remove the need for our citizens to feel fear. Simply put, systemic racism must be acknowledged and addressed. Let this be the last time we have to say “never again.”