Our voice is BUILDing
A message from the Department of Social and Health Services.
We are unwavering in our commitment to eliminate disparities
Etched into my head and heart are the words, “I cannot breathe”….
The last words of George Floyd, handcuffed and face down, as he died pinned to the pavement. A black man and a white police officer. A terrible death. A senseless, needless death like so many others. An incendiary death as it has turned out; sparking a conflagration of outrage and discontent about the deep currents of racism, inequality, and disparity present in our communities.
My heart hurts at the loss of life; at the loss of George Floyd’s life – since I think it is important to say his name and not speak in generalities. Let us grieve together and let us redouble our commitment to our work.
Our administration’s poverty reduction goal is “to reduce the number of individuals and families living in poverty by 50% by 2025 in a way that eliminates disparities.” These last six words echo Washington State, DSHS, and ESA commitments to racial equity and social justice found in law and administrative policy. We are working diligently to evaluate how our programs and systems contribute to oppression and change them to create equitable opportunities for all—clients and employees. We continue to develop trainings and other methods for educating our employees on America’s history of oppression and the importance of valuing those with different experiences from our own. I invite each of you to explore these topics and more on our ESA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion page. If you have suggestions for additional ways we can remove barriers to create more equitable systems and opportunities for all, please email your division’s EDI Core Team member. Their names and contact information can be found on the ESA EDI page listed above.
To our employees who are mourning and have been living under the fear and anxiety of oppression, we see you, we grieve with you, and we will fight with you. Please do what is needed to care for yourselves. The Employee Assistance Program is also available to you and your immediate family members free of charge to help during these difficult times.
Every day you show up to serve Washingtonians. Some of these children, adults and families are experiencing poverty for the first time; for too many others that poverty is generational. You see firsthand the impacts of poverty, structural racism, and inequity. If you harbored any doubt that the work we are doing to reduce poverty in a way that eliminates disparity is critically important, then the experience of the COVID-19 health emergency over these last few months should have washed them away. And the events of the last few days should have scoured them away.
The events precipitating this weekend’s public outcry and all that followed, bring into sharp relief the fault lines that threaten and undermine progress toward a world in which social and economic mobility is equitably accessible to all.
We are fortunate, and privileged, and in a position to make a positive difference. Our work and the way that we do it, our commitments and our follow through are the means by which we overcome the iniquity and callous disregard of simply standing by.
Poverty, racism, and inequity are pernicious. Let’s fix that.
Very truly yours,
Assistant Secretary of the Economic Services Administration (ESA)
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