A message from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Dear WDVA Family:
I would like to start this message by saying the names of Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubrey, and George Floyd and acknowledge their murders and honor their humanity for who they were before their untimely deaths. These deaths continue to magnify health and economic disparities due to systemic racism and social injustices that have existed for far too long across generations. The tragic violence and hateful rhetoric unfolding across the country and close to home, are profoundly disturbing to all of us, and our black colleagues in particular. WDVA supports the peaceful pursuit of justice that has been reverberating across the country this past weekend which has been eclipsed by mayhem and destruction.
As I watched the events that are unfolding, I felt dismay, anger and frustration, but ultimately a sense of resolve in that we can and must do more especially in our WDVA to make a difference. We must be intentional about examining our actions and whether they perpetuate racism and bias, or privilege. We are not perfect; sometimes we say or do hurtful things without realizing their impact. And sadly, sometimes there is intent to hurt which is deplorable and intolerable. This is when we need issues addressed head on or with the help of a trusted advocate for decisive action, prevent escalation and repair relationships before more damage takes place.
I also watched this weekend a documentary on the life of Nina Simone, an amazing composer, singer and activist during the Martin Luther King’s Civil Rights Movement era. The eerie scenes of pain, violence, and riots were nearly identical to this weekend. History keeps repeating itself 60 years later and as a country, we continue to relapse. These are the moments we cannot be silent—and WDVA will speak out, oppose racism, and advance our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
To my fellow WDVA black coworkers, I want you to know that we stand with you in solidarity against these injustices. Health, Secretary John Wiesman issued a statement declaring that racism is a public health threat. I couldn’t agree more. Your WDVA Family is here to support you and grieve with you. If you want to talk with someone the EAP is always available. But more than that, I want you to know that I am available, as are David Puente, our Deputy Director, our Human Resources team and other members of our leadership team to support you in this tumultuous time. If you have not felt heard or supported in a past, please accept my most sincere apology and know that this is a reset point.
Our ESD HR Director Michaela Doelman, asked in an open letter to her agency for two things from those who are not black that I could not say more eloquently:
There may be some who may react to this message and think that I am overstepping in bringing this up or that this is a “political” issue that I should keep at arms’ length. Dignity, fairness, equity, inclusion and the emotional wellness of this organization are my and should be everybody’s business and aspiration in WDVA. Inherent in our mission of “Serving Those Who Served is a promise of hope and resiliency. Let’s re-commit our hearts and minds to a workplace and community that fosters empathy, understanding and justice.
LOURDES E. ALVARADO-RAMOS
Washington Department of Veterans Affairs
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