(Sent to JVC Community on 6/4/2020)
The structures of racism remain deeply embedded in this country and its institutions. The deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and George Floyd are the most recent, visible embodiments of this. We know about these four Black persons because of the headlines and videos, and we know there are many others. These cases are abhorrent and deplorable. They amplify the pain that the Black community and communities of color are suffering from deadly violence. And, they also are not isolated incidents.
JVC stands with those calling for an end to the violence against the Black community and for justice for those who have perpetrated those crimes.
Racism knows no boundaries. It is present in every social, religious, and political institution. It is embedded in the dominant culture in the U.S. and reflected in laws, policies, and practices which perpetuate racial inequality. And because JVC is an institution that operates in a society steeped in racism, we must understand our role in perpetuating systems of racial injustice and what we need to do to change.
To do that, we must make our commitment to racial justice more visible and integral to how we pursue social justice. We are not starting from ground zero. There are thousands of FJVs who share a commitment to racial justice. There are the current volunteers who have demonstrated their resilience during a pandemic and are actively standing with others in their community to express their outrage at the killing of George Floyd and all those harmed by the systems in the United States that enable this to happen.
JVC stands with those calling for an end to the violence against the Black community and while we stand with, we will also work within.
The Jesuit Volunteer Corps draws young people who are committed, through their service, to gain a deeper understanding of the systems of injustice and their role in creating a more just society. JVC also is primarily a white organization serving in communities of color.
One primary way that JVC advances its anti-racism and social justice mission is by helping volunteers reflect on their experiences and discern their futures. It is one reason JVC exists. While we have done well in providing a challenging experience of working for social change through placements, community life, and the JVs’ spiritual life, the focus on racial justice needs to be more explicit in how we engage volunteers and staff.
We remain committed to further diversifying the JV cohort. As we continue to do that, we are developing a thoughtful, intentional process for volunteers to reflect on their identities in light of the communities they serve and those they live with, to understand the biases that influence them, to confront the privilege they hold and how they will choose to be actively anti-racist.
We will continue to add to the resources that make a year or two of service more accessible for those who want to serve. These include the Hurley scholarships; Americorps placements and grants; partnerships with graduate schools that offer scholarships to FJVs; and better ways to network with the broader FJV community for career opportunities and mentoring. We will continue to diversify the JVC board and staff.
JVC is a faith-based organization that was founded by the Jesuits to engage young people in the work of social change. We recognize that our mission requires us to be clear in our commitment to racial justice. JVC has much work to do to make that value more visible and deeply embedded in how we engage our staff, volunteers, and FJVs. We commit to do the hard work that will move us further in that direction.
President of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps