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Letter to the Community from Seth Friedman


Privilege is propped up on the back of


A few weeks back I sent out
video explaining the disproportionate impact of
COVID-19 on communities of color, its ties to institutional racism, and the
importance of Passage Home’s work to mitigate these impacts. The events of the
past week have once again been a reminder of how deep-rooted institutional
racism is. The murder of George Floyd and countless other black and brown men,
women, and children by the very institutions that are supposed to protect them
is revolting.

My deepest sympathy is with everyone who is
suffering–especially my black colleagues, friends, mentors, neighbors, and all
who have historically targeted in America.

I purposefully wrote sympathize and not
empathize, for I cannot empathize with the stress, pain, and fear that every
Black American must live with.  To empathize is to understand. I can
understand their anger, but—as a white male—I can never understand their pain.

It is, however, my responsibility as an ally to
use my position to support their movement. Support can come in many fashions: I
listen, I can learn, I can stand strong
beside them. Today, I am choosing to use my position of power and proximity to
other levers of power to speak up about my own white privilege and what that

There is no doubt in my mind, without my
privilege, I would not be CEO of Passage Home today. That is not to say that I
am not good at my job, nor that I don’t deserve my job, but rather to say I
only had access to this job through the long history of institutional clemency
I was granted.

I grew up upper middle class in the Northeast.
My teachers looked like me, the police looked like me, community leaders looked
like me, the people on tv looked like me. I had representation everywhere I
turned. That is privilege. ‘Til this day, when a cop
pulls me over (mind you I am firmly “middle-aged”)—my visceral reaction is “My
dad is going to kill me (figuratively).” That is privilege. For individuals of
color, they are concerned with literally being killed by the police. I can jog
any time of day or night with headphones on. That is both white and male
privilege. I can work out in any gym, my kids can play with toy guns, I can
walk through any neighborhood, I can drive any car, I can argue with police, I
can walk into State Houses, I can pretty much come and go as a free person.
That is the ultimate privilege.

It is only through recognizing our privilege
that we can ever support those who don’t have the same fortune. I encourage
everyone to learn about America’s history with the Black community to
understand the present oppression and community anger.

If you don’t think this history
has led to the cycle of poverty that a disproportionate amount of the black and
brown people live in—you are mistaken; if you don’t think this unfortunate
history has led to their righteous anger—you are mistaken; If you don’t think
our privilege comes at the cost of other’s oppression—you are mistaken. 

Privilege is propped up on the
back of oppression. 

There is no quick fix to the
racial inequality that stains our nation. I am asking everyone who receives
this email to do their part: recognize your privilege, educate yourself, engage
in anti-racist work, and if you are a person of color, please know Passage Home
stands beside you. I stand beside you.  

There is a deep intersectionality between the
systemic oppression and the majority of our clients
who are individuals and families of color. As a leader in Wake County’s housing
sector, I have an important role to play. The privilege or oppression many of
us live with today can be traced back for hundreds of years through housing and
land laws. From acres of land
promised but never given to the redlining practices
that have led to our country’s massive wealth gap.

As the CEO of Passage Home, I
will make a promise—I will continue to use my position of power to speak up against
oppression and I will always listen to—and stand beside–the communities being

With sympathy,

Seth Friedman

CEO, Passage Home