Combating Seattle’s Racial Inequity

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by Cary Moon

In Seattle, we like to see ourselves as a city that is the antithesis of everything Donald Trump stands for; a city that leads with progressive values and bold innovations.

At our best, we are that city. But we also must recognize that we have a problem so enmeshed in our city’s culture and power structures that we avoid even acknowledging how deep it runs.

Seattle has a racial and economic equity problem that is often not talked about publicly. Communities of color have been working for decades to call out and dismantle our unique mode of liberal racism, exposing how it works and crafting real solutions.

As those communities have led meaningful changes, too many have been sitting on the sidelines. One thing has come into sharp focus for me during this campaign: there is a wide gap between those who understand systematic inequity and work every day to change it, and those who look the other way.

In our time, inequity happens through whose voices get heard, where resources get allocated, who has access to great schools and bank loans, who gets to be the hero in the telling of history, who gets access to opportunities, and who gets second chances in our criminal justice system. And more fundamentally, who gets to walk through life freely and without fear, treated with respect.

We sustain the status quo through inertia, failing to find the political will to break down the barriers. As Mayor, it will be my responsibility to keep the vision of racial and economic justice front and center, support and amplify our local leaders doing this work, and prioritize the work to dismantle barriers and share power toward making our city more just.

We may not have built this system of 21st century inequity, but we were all born into it. And we all have a responsibility to change it. Our work must go deeper than acknowledging that racism exists; it requires being willing to challenge the power imbalance that perpetuates structural racism, and being intentionally inclusive and transparent about who we listen to, and who we empower to build our policies.

It means being accountable to communities of color. It is easy to say President Donald Trump has emboldened racists; it’s harder to be held accountable for our own shortcomings.

To build lasting change, we must ensure these values are reflected in law and the everyday practices and habits of local government. The City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) – a nationwide model that started in Seattle – lays the groundwork to undo institutional inequality.

While the RSJI has been an executive order for a dozen years, it is not a guarantee. To permanently commit to the transformation called for, we must enact an ordinance making RSJI a primary duty of the City to address race and social inequities in all its work and implement this at every level of city government.

We cannot address the root problems of racial inequity without tackling the deep work needed to confront racial disparity in our criminal justice system.

Nationally, the justice system is an institution in which African-Americans and other communities of color have been targeted at a higher rate and punished more aggressively. Mass incarceration has caused more devastation to African American families and communities than any other institution since the end of slavery.

Our over-policing of communities of color reflects a larger societal problem that most of white America is confronting, finally. Communities of color in Seattle have been leading this transformation locally, and we must all support this movement. As Mayor I will promise we keep lasting police reform on the front burner.

Every person in our city deserves to feel safe around Seattle’s police. At the same time, we must recognize that individual police officers are also front-line workers who signed up to do a difficult job. Police officers – like all Americans – carry deeply ingrained racial and social biases. These biases are some of the contributing factors to why people of color are still disproportionately killed by police, specifically, black men, black women and, in particular, transgender black women.

As I lead this ongoing transformation I will ask and make sure we answer critical questions like “Are we directly confronting disparity? Do our policies build social inclusion, community safety and community trust? Do they enhance or hinder the inspiration of all residents?”

As Mayor, I will continue developing solutions with all Seattleites –  families, communities, civic leaders, and businesses  – ensuring everyone’s voice is heard, especially communities most impacted. We all belong here, and have an equal right to help shape our shared future.

In the upcoming days, I will be sharing more of my vision and policy proposals based off discussion I have had with community members. As Mayor I will ensure our city makes a strong commitment to equity through all our systems by moving from aspiration and conversation to actualization.


Cary Moon is a candidate for Seattle Mayor

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