White Comfort and Black Lives: A statement of support for Black Lives Matter

By Ed Nusser, Executive Director of City of Bridges CLT

Author’s Note: It is a distinct privilege and honor to lead City of Bridges CLT.  Every day I have the chance to work with an amazing group of individuals who make up our staff and board. Every single team member brings unique expertise and lived experiences to our work. As a diverse organization I can never fully know the 19 different lived experiences of our staff and board, but I can and will continue to learn from, listen to, and be lead by this team of remarkable people. The below statement is written from my perspective as a straight, white, man and published with the consent and approval of the staff and board of City of Bridges CLT.

James Baldwin wrote “The great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do.”

American history has created a society where the cascading and compounding effects of pervasive economic, racial, and environmental injustice are directly tied to our present reality; whether or not we notice or choose to accept it.

Pundits, elected leaders, and others have taken varying degrees of condemnation towards the current unrest, diminishing these actions to no more than looting and rioting. But the actions that have occurred during recent protests are nothing compared to the looting and lawlessness that people of color and their communities have survived their entire lives. Our team and I will strive to ensure that we always stand in solidarity with the marginalized and the victims of systemic injustice.

Communities have been torn apart and countless lives lost by white looting of indigenous and black bodies and land. Lives and communities have been destroyed by a moral lawlessness, currently on display throughout our country, which places white comfort above black existence.

Make no mistake, looting has destroyed entire neighborhoods. But that degree of wonton destruction only comes with the power of “law.” The history of state-sanctioned, or worse, state-operated, looting by people wielding plans and investment must be acknowledged.

In Pittsburgh and throughout our country, highways have replaced homes. Walling out and carving up black neighborhoods, so white suburbs can flourish.

Arenas have replaced neighborhoods, creating wealth to be extracted, not reinvested.

Air, land, and water are looted and poisoned so stock values remain high while clean air and clean water are privatized and acres of passive green space are paved for more exclusive and segregated housing.

Entire communities have been redlined into oblivion; the haves and the have-nots now being both predetermined by and proactively enforced by local, state, and federal law. And when those laws are subtly broken, or loopholes found, Trayvon and Ahmaud are shot for having the audacity to exist in a white space, or for those who engage in coded language, simply “The Wrong Neighborhood.” “The Wrong Neighborhood,” of course, being one that was created and reinforced by a century’s worth of housing and lending policy to enrich white families.

We as white people must reckon with and atone for the generational looting that has propped up and enabled our wealth and comfort at the direct expense of our black and brown neighbors. We must declare, through substantive policy and funding, that black lives matter, that black homes matter, that black schools matter.

Does that make us uncomfortable? It should. We must hold on to that discomfort because deep inside of it is a sign that we still have some semblance of a shared humanity. When we lose that discomfort, when we refuse to engage it or work through it, we’ve lost the plot entirely.

If you want to engage our collective history, and its ongoing impact on the world around us the resources below are a helpful start:

  • Video:
  • Books:
    • How to be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. Kendi
    • The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein
    • Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
    • Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
    • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Renni Eddo-Lodge