Presentation Minutes

Racial Equity Committee

  • Heidi Nagel, Comprehensive Life Resources -
  • Team
  • Our Tea is working on Racial Equity
    • People of color are disproportionately in the homeless population – 40% of homeless population
    • Homelessness more than poverty
  • Meet at 8:15am every Friday – sit with us so you can inform our work (and I suspect do some of the work too – but that is a good thing –ed.)
  • SPARC report ( ) – The Center for Social Innovation (often called C4 - -ed) wanted to understand racial disparities in homelessness across the County
  • The Center Looked at 10 communities – and Pierce County was one of them.
  • We have a reputation of no slavery in the west (but we had some, of course – Charles Mitchell is perhaps the only known example of an African American slave in Washington State.  He was a “wedding gift” to James Tilton, the Surveyor General of Washington Territory. Mitchell was able to escape to Victoria – a free Colony. Thankfully Victoria accepted him – a nice thing to do for a neighbor living in inhumane conditions – just saying. See, that history degree is really paying some dividends now, isn’t it Dad…”what do you do with a history degree” – bah. –ed.), not as vast of redlining as East Cost and south (although I wouldn’t say that to Harold or Bil Moss –ed), but racial disparity was still not any better
  • Blacks are still overrepresented in the homeless population 2 or 3 times over the general population, and even balancing for poverty doesn’t explain it.
  • We have these social safety net structures that are supposedly race neutral, but aren’t.
  • Data is riffled throughout the housing experience with disproportionality – evictions, foreclosures, utility shutdowns.  These are supposed to be race neutral policies – power shut down if you don’t pay.  But they are not happing in a proportional way.  We see what is happening, but not why.  We need stories from the community to understand what is going on.  Calvin Kennon said that one factor may be higher per capita marijuana usage in some populations – tests blocking employment.  Police interventions are disproportionate – there are more per capita arrest for blacks.  More negative impacts for blacks in courts.  At every point in time in the process, if you are black you are slightly more likely to have a negative outcome, and these all stack up – you are more likely to be apprehend, more likely to be kept in jail, more likely to be held pre-trial, more likely to be charged, and if charged more likely to be guilty, and if guilty you have a higher chance of longer sentence.  You’re even slightly more likely to be held for a higher crime.  We have this data from this state - and personal experience right here and in this room.  I’ve been pulled over for a warning by police.  I doubt that warning would have been Ben’s experience (Heidi, the speaker is not black, and Ben is black – important information for those of you following along from home.  Normally I don’t call out everyone’s race in my minutes – I’m hoping that narrative flourish dropped from the Nyland family line with the passing of my Grandmother – but sometimes the story has its own needs. –ed).  You all know the stories of racial discrimination – we need your information  to inform our work.  And read the SPARC report (again - - and totally worth the read – new things were learned from their work, and what they uncovered are things I think we all need to know. -ed)
  • Ben – charged as a kid with theft and fighting (I didn’t quite get the details of the incident, but I don’t think that isn’t the important part. –ed) – a few of us were involved.  Two of us are black and Korean (bi-racial, that is.  You know, when writing about race, I have to google every word I think might be racially charged to make sure what I think is OK to say is really OK to say. I really don’t want to offend people, but at some point I’m going to screw up – so please don’t hesitate to call me out – it’s how I learn. Anyway, it looks like saying bi-racial is OK – but it still sounds wrong somehow… –ed). We were charged with a felony.  Our White friend was not charged with a felony – he just received a fine.  I took me my whole life to get that felony off my record.  My mom, from Korea, didn’t know what was going on.  We can help people be aware of these situations. 
  • Heidi – The SPARC report thinks Service Providers are part of the problem.  The legislative session starts in January – we want to hear your experiences, want this room to tell us what needs to change.  People in this room know how to go to the legislature.  There isn’t a lot to do yet, because we don’t understand the problem.  The SPARC report says the service deliver is a problem – they are built for white people to access them.  We need to understand this.  The criminal justice system informs this process – landlords don’t want to rent to folks with conviction.  We need to know what to do the housing system – what people experiences are – so we know why this is happening.  We think some opportunities are in service delivery  - learning what we are seeing at the street level.  System-wide training – government and non-government .  Look at the public service model.  They got us to stop smoking with billboards – stop shaking babies with billboards – may be able to use a public information campaign. (it is surprising hard not to shake babies – they really mess with you sometimes, and you still have to be nice to them – not really fair. I mean, my son Henry is really a nice kid now, but in the early years, most of the neighborhood was pretty sure we were raising a sociopath. We were a corporal punishment free household, but we still had conversations like:

Me: so, how about just a little shaking, that can’t be so bad.  You can’t believe what a turkey Henry was today.
Me: Have you read any research on when shaking becomes dangerous?
Wife: No one is doing research where they shake babies to find out when the brain damage starts
Me: But what if…
Wife: look, I’m trying to sleep here…

  • What are we asking  from you?
    • On October 18th – we have an hour and 20 minutes set aside for a forum on racial equity - we want you to think ahead.  Put your thinking cap on.  If you don’t want to speak publicly – email us, and we’ll present it for you.  Come with an open heart – there may be words that are hard to accept – and we’ll try to figure out why it is happening.
    • Tell us what you think is part of the problem
    • Tell us who you think we should bring to the forum – specific clients or politician who have worked on race issues – really start to talk about racism.  We want you to tell us what the racial equity subgroup can accomplish – where we can have an impact.  Tell us who should talk to us. 
  • Please remember that many of us may need to be anonymous – I can’t wait for the day we can just talk about issues openly  - we are all in this together, in a community together. 
  • All of you are beautiful – and I appreciate you.
  • Al – when I was in grad school, I did research on conformity – the sphere of talking about racism – the wider cultures says to be careful – we need to be willing to talk about it, that we can expect there to be conformity pressures, and that we can be OK disagreeing. 
  • Theresa – I assumed you talked about people that wanted to point out problems in their agency or partner agencies – we want to protect people who fear reprisal for speaking out against their agency.
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