In pursuit of health and equity for all

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”  -Martin Luther King Jr.

In the wake of the tragic events in Charlottesville this past week, we believe that hate and racism has no place in America, in Eastern WA, or in any healthy community.  It is in these key moments that all of us, whether individuals or organizations, need to express our values.  So that our neighbors and partners and children do not interpret our silence as agreement with those who act on hate.  

While we may not have any Confederate monuments to tear down, our community is sadly not immune to hateful action.   In the past year, Spokane headlines have included racist vandalism scrawled on the Martin Luther King childcare center, desecrating a Sikh temple being mistaken for Muslim, anti-Semitic and racist flyers posted multiple times on the Community Building, hateful words of “Get out!” spray painted on the garage of a refugee family, and hateful graffiti on the Salish School.  While the community and leadership have come together in support in each incident, we all go back to our busy lives the next day.  Never stopping to notice that what used to be a once a year headline is now nearly monthly - are hate crimes now normal in our community?

As non-profits with health missions, we believe that advancing healthy communities means advancing equity.  At our leadership team meeting this week, we asked the question:  it’s not if but when the next tragic incident happens either nationally or locally, and will we sit back and wait for it, or will we be proactive and do something to advance equity?  And if we are proactive, what does that mean?

Equity is integrated into our grant making, and our services.  We are challenging ourselves to ask tough questions and use an equity lens in our work. It's a journey.  For example in our Adverse Childhood Experiences work, we went in with a  broad "reduce suspensions for everyone goal" when at the time African American students were getting suspended at 3x the rate. That disparity has since almost been eliminated, thanks to significant attention and effort by Spokane Public Schools.  From that lesson we are now partnering with Catholic Charities to prevent children from entering foster care, with an explicit goal to reduce the disparity for Native American children. While these are great efforts, the current crisis demands fresh ideas and greater proactive action.

Ideas to be proactive include:  

  • Pilot grants to non-profit and grass roots organizations working towards equity in our community, such as NAACP, YWCA, and the Interfaith Council.
  • Convening a community conversation on how to discuss national events like Charlottesville, Orlando, Atlanta and Ferguson with your children or in the classroom.  
  • Grant investments to help county and city law enforcement to adopt best practice in identifying, tracking and prosecuting hate crimes.  Or other collaborations to meaningfully reduce hate crimes.
  • Having mental health experts on standby to work phone banks for people who are worried, hurt, angry or confused.

What are your thoughts?  We would love to hear from you.