Dear Supporters, Advocates and Allies,
Today, the Matthew Shepard Foundation joins the leaders of some of the nation’s leading civil rights and racial justice organizations as we observe a national day of mourning. As we take time to honor and remember our black brothers and sisters whose lives were stripped away due to senseless violence, it is not lost on us that our mission to erase hate has become even more challenging over the past few weeks.
As we attempt to unpack all of the anger, frustration, anguish and fear felt throughout America, it is our role as civil rights advocates to speak directly to the needs of the community. First, we must make space for grief. All of these crises call out for us to grieve – it would be inhuman for us not to. And from experience, we know that grief has a special power to unite. When we mourn for our loved ones, we do it together, in families, in congregations, and as a community. It was that impulse that made Matt’s death so profoundly powerful that it could be the impetus for change. Today, it is the loss of George Floyd and too many others that has left our world grief stricken – but we need to feel it.
Fortunately, the cure to grief is action and we at the Matthew Shepard Foundation re-commit ourselves to helping build trust between marginalized communities and the officers sworn to protect them. We are proud partners of law enforcement and at the same time we condemn any form of violence motivated by hate – especially when it is perpetrated behind the badge.
Since 2017, the Shepards and our expert staff have presented to over 1,100 officers and prosecutors in 33 cities and it is clear that implicit bias exists in law enforcement. But the call for higher standards and improved accountability in policing must be met with communities prioritizing appropriate bias training. We are prepared to meet this need now and into the future, as we know our work directly impacts this growing public safety emergency.
The unrest and hopelessness felt over the last 11 days reminds us of October 1998. But more than 20 years later, we are confident that this too will be a turning point in our fight for true justice and equality for all.
Jason Marsden, Executive Vice President
Cynthia Deitle, Director of Civil Rights Reform and Chief, Civil Rights Unit, FBI (ret.)