This post is part of our blog series about diversity, equity, and inclusion. These posts are written by staff on our Equity Committee and originally shared internally. We're sharing them publicly to be transparent about our internal dialogue, reflections and learning process as we work on being an anti-racist organization.
This statement began as a single Equity Committee member’s opinion, then later became a collaborative document that all committee members have signed onto. Though there are references to the first-person “I,” this statement is one that represents all 9 members.
This is a bleak moment in US history. Just over a year since the first COVID death in WA, and now, more than 500,000 people have been killed by the ongoing pandemic, our national capital was attacked by white supremacists, our country’s former president continues to lie about his election loss, and more. It can feel overwhelming to think of all that’s happening right now.
I think of how much I’ve driven myself to invest in gardening since March 2020, and how concentrating on digging weeds, hauling mulch, and planting seeds is sometimes the only way I’m able to forget for an hour or two the gnawing fear and unease that I might—in spite of all my caution—bring home the virus to my elderly mother who I live with. Gardening is sometimes the only way I get a break from thinking about how jealous I am of a friend in New Zealand gets to see their friends and family, all without a mask on, because of how effective their society has been in controlling the virus; it’s the only time I forget how angry I am that any politician would suggest an equivalency between an elderly person's life and the country’s economy. And yet, that is where our country is.
Underneath all this is the realization that these equivalencies do exist. People cannot get the basic financial help they need, and so they have no choice but to work. And we see the results—the pandemic has hit communities of color, specifically Black, Native American, and Latino communities, far worse than it has hit white folks. An ongoing report from the APM Research Lab found that the COVID-19 mortality rate for Black Americans is 2.1 times higher than for white Americans. Another report, which acknowledged limited data for Indigenous populations, stated that “in New Mexico, which contains portions of the Navajo Nation, the Indigenous mortality rate is eight times as high as the white mortality rate.”
Like we are sure many of you are, the Equity Committee has been left reeling in the wake of the Washington DC Capitol attack on January 6th. Our committee members come from different walks of life; we are Black, Muslim, LGBTQ, female, immigrant, raised in low-income families, and more. It is difficult to think about how to write a statement about the Capitol attack and also keep our words apolitical, when many of our committee members saw the Capitol attack as a natural progression of the malice and disgust that has been maintained and even nurtured for years against the various groups we fall into.
So, in the face of so much death, inaction, irresponsibility, and murderous intent from white supremacists, we ask you this: What are your values? What are your hopes for your children, extended relatives, or chosen family and friends? What is your positive vision for the future? Think about it, write it down if you want, and look at how you’re living those values, hopes, and positive vision out. And then look at how you’re failing. Because that accountability is missing right now at our national level. That lack of accountability is on blatant display by many politicians and talking heads each time they call for “unity” in the wake of the Capitol attack, yet abdicate responsibility for fomenting this insurrection by giving credence to lies about our election process. That lack of accountability is also demonstrated by our former President, who marshalled the rhetoric of white supremacy for years and continues to enjoy protection by those who agree with his racist ideology, while simultaneously quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. and professing they believe in equality for all.
A statement from the Equity Committee cannot fix the fact that white supremacists broke into our nation’s capital, waved a flag of the slaveholding Confederacy around, constructed a gallows with which to murder people, carried makeshift handcuffs through the Capitol, flaunted tattoos and flags and slogans with neo-nazi, KKK, and other hate group associations, and were far from subject to the draconian police responses that Black Lives Matter protestors have experienced.
A statement from us should not bring anyone at Bellwether ease or comfort. This kind of ugly display should never be forgotten, and should serve as a reminder why the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary to forge a future for this country where we can truthfully say that Black lives matter to police, to every single one of our politicians, and to all Americans whether they are white or people of color. And when Black lives truly matter to every single person in our country, it will mean that women’s lives matter, the lives of people with disabilities matter, poor people’s lives matter, religious minorities’ lives matter, LGBTQ lives matter, seniors’ lives matter, and that the white, male, able-bodied, homeowning, high-wage earning, heterosexual American is no longer idealized in our country, but regarded as equal to my elderly, homemaking mother with high blood pressure and limited mobility. All our identities and experiences intersect with one another in some way, and we all stand to benefit when Black lives matter.
For the Equity Committee, our positive vision for the future is one in which Black and Indigenous lives matter. It’s one in which we honor the original inhabitants of this land, and we acknowledge that this country was quite literally founded on stolen lands and the conquering of many peoples, in thousands of tribes. We believe that in this future when Black and Indigenous lives matter, all lives will matter.
Our values are of respect, learning, vulnerability, discussion (even when it’s difficult or you don’t always have the right words!), and accountability.
Our hopes for our communities are of housing for those who need it, clean air and water and soil, gainful, stable employment earning a true living wage that will allow people to thrive, and equitable access to healthcare, childcare, and transportation. We also recognize that for each of us to thrive, we need a safe environment, free of bias and oppression. We try and live up to these values in different ways in our work and personal lives, and we fail at them in different ways, too. But in the face of all that’s going on in our country, we do our individual best to keep moving forward, to keep asking questions and to keep on learning, and we invite you to enter more deeply into this journey with us.
The Equity Committee