Before beginning I must first acknowledge that we are on stolen Duwamish and Salish land.
Second, I would thank you for making the time to visit us at the University of Washington Governor Inslee. There are myriad pressing issues you could have selected to devote your time to, but you have chosen to invest your time with us and your concern and interest has not gone unnoticed. Thank you.
Today I am going to speak on issues of equity and how they pertain to the qualities and characteristics of the kind of Board of Regents members we desire here at the University of Washington and why. Equity is not blind it is very intentional and it differs drastically from equality. Equality as I have come to understand it is like placing everyone from different socio-economic, racial, gender, and citizenship status backgrounds on the same starting line. On the one hand this would seem just and fair because of the concept of equality, but what it lacks is an understanding of preexisting conditions for some that translate into unfair advantages for others. Many of the non-white students here at UW are also first generation college students, which may mean that our families do not possess as much disposable income to assist us in times of need, or that when it comes to academic concerns or administrative issues they are unable or incapable of helping us. Gender is a fluid and evolving concept of identity, but one thing that is certain is that when a student does not fit into a particular definition of gender they face discrimination and marginalization. And citizenship status can often pose an almost insurmountable barrier to affording tuition or other helpful resources, regardless of the reasons a particular individual’s status is in question. These preexisting conditions and many others can make admittance into and successful completion of university programs difficult, if not, nearly impossible for many. Merely placing everyone on the same starting line is simply not enough. On the other hand, equity seeks not to establish a similar starting point rather it seeks to garner similar outcomes regardless of preexisting conditions.
Last week students from universities across the country staged demonstrations in solidarity with the students of the University of Missouri who were protesting racial injustices and unfair responses from their administration. The demographics of University of Missouri are not unlike University of Washington, which is also a predominantly white institution; black students make up roughly eight percent and three percent of the undergraduate populations respectively. Earlier this year the students of the University of Washington staged what has been reported as the largest demonstration on campus since the 1960s when we declared a State of Emergency because of the racial and class disparities on campus, and walked out on February 25, 2015. During that demonstration we were subjected to racial epithets and as a result of further reprisals intent to silence our people through violence, which went unpunished, we determined it was necessary to challenge the unjust system of impunity with further demonstrations, much the same as the students at the University of Missouri.
These demonstrations are part of a much larger national struggle challenging the racial and class inequities and injustices within institutions such as law enforcement, the prison industrial complex, and education that reemerged onto the agenda of the general public with the Black Lives Matter movement. Police brutality and murder by police officers are major problems because they equate to state sanctioned violence against the people, which is extremely problematic because this violence is perpetuated in the name of and purported to be for the benefit of society. We are members of this society and this treatment is disreputable, and repugnant, humiliating and dehumanizing. Moreover, police brutality, which is nothing new to poor and minority communities is but one of the many factors that constitute the negative preexisting conditions that layer and stack upon each other to consolidate into a system of oppression and inequity.
The School-to-Prison Pipeline is also a major factor contributing to the racial, class, and ethnic disparities that confront many of our communities. People of color and those with mental disabilities are three times more likely to be disciplined while at school. From the ninth grade onward, one suspension or expulsion makes a student over fifty percent more likely to wind up in juvenile detention. Once in juvenile detention they become seventy-five percent more likely to end up in the adult penitentiary system and, once in that system they are more than eighty-five percent likely to return. Many people equate these statistics to inherently ‘bad’ youth, but Michelle Alexander, the author of The New Jim Crow, reveals that there is just as much if not more crime committed by white people. And one of our very own professors at the University of Washington, Katherine Beckett, the author of Making Crime Pay, has shown racial profiling is real and a serious problem even here in Seattle. So, it is not the case that students and people of color are ‘bad,’ but it is the case that we are being punished at disparaging and unfair rates.
The prison industrial complex is an institution grounded and founded upon extracting profit from slave labor. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which supposedly outlawed slavery made one exception in the case of a person being convicted of committing a “crime.” That short clause provided justification for the creation, expansion, and explosion of the prison labor system. It began with convict leasing to plantations and mines that used to be worked by slaves, and now the prison industrial complex produces products that range from military equipment, to furniture, to home appliances and Correctional Industries’ website looks like any other online shopping website where people can purchase products. More troubling is the relative monopoly that Correctional Industries is granted by Washington State Law. RCW 39.26.251 states that all state agencies which include both universities and colleges must purchase the products made by Class II type prison labor. What this all equates to is an inequitable system of oppression entrenched in our largest and most prestigious institutions, which forms many of the preexisting conditions that stack and layer upon one another to create an inequitable system.
I was the president of my high school and the treasurer of North Seattle College and I used to be a business owner and helped the Department of Planning and Development of the City of Seattle revise it Job Order Contracting, so I am very familiar with bureaucratic governmental organizations. I was also part of the Divest UW coalition who for three years negotiated with and challenged the Board of Regents until we won a divestment from coal fire power earlier this year. I was also part of the team that helped draft and pass the City of Seattle City Council Resolution 31614: “Zero Use of Detention for Youth” in Seattle on September 21, 2015. What has been a consistent pattern is the nearly ubiquitous feeling that we as people are not being heard by the representatives that are supposed to be working on our behalf. Our UW President, Ana Mari Cauce, has done a lot to shift that phenomenon and also to address the racial and equity issues at the university, but we must do more. Although, I do not agree with all of the capitalistic and profit driven motives of the institution, I do understand that the university is operating within a capitalist system. Nonetheless, I and the many people I represent find it deplorable to be dehumanized and objectified, being reduced to dollar signs. When a human being is “thingified,” as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called it, it dissolves one’s perception of their moral culpability to that individual and that is problematic. We need some Board of Regents members who are not the heads of major corporations, who are leaders in marginalized communities and can represent our concerns. We need Board of Regents members who have a firm understanding of how interlocking and intersecting forms of systemic and structural oppression function to foster inequitable conditions for many people. So that when we bring our grievances we feel heard, are heard, and our concerns are responded to appropriately and in a timely manner. And most importantly, we demand that we are respected as Human Beings.
This morning Got Green held a press conference in front of the King County Juvenile, notorious for destroying the lives of young people of color, fighting for rights and opportunities for our community’s youth. The press conference was focused in particular on green internships and gaps in access to sustainable living alternatives for our urban youth.
Speaking and Performing at the press conference this morning were:
Carlynn Newhouse, Youth Speaks Poet
Rashad Johnson, Poet / Performer
Mo!, Got Green, Program Organizer for the Young Leaders in the Green Economy project
Lylianna Allala, Environmental Professionals of Color (EPOC)
Lisa Chen, Executive Director of Food Empowerment Education Sustainability (FEEST)
Mike O’Brien Seattle City Council Member
Green jobs and internships are vitally important to our society because the world we want to live in will not simply materialize, rather, we must live our lives in such a way as to bring it about and, green jobs and internships are one part of that process. Furthermore, because green internships are socially responsible and engaging, providing them for our urban youth will not only provide sustainable and rewarding alternatives to less desirable activities and outcomes, it will also instruct our youth about how to construct and consume responsibly, and how to utilize and maintain community relationships to build the future we desire while providing the resources and services our city and its people need today.
The Youth are engaged, knowledgeable and making moves to ensure their own futures. And at least some of our elected officials are actively engaged in making resources available for our youth to participate in green internships and thus, benefiting the broader community.
GotGreen? Released a Press Release this morning prior to the press conference:
“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2015
Contact: Murphy Stack, 206.466.7712, firstname.lastname@example.org
New Report finds a “Green” Glass Ceiling for Seattle’s Young Workers of Color
Community Leaders Calling for Green Paid Internships
SEATTLE–Today, Got Green’s “Young Leaders” released a new report that identifies access challenges for young workers of
color who want to pursue “green” career pathways and calls on elected officials and public agencies to invest in paid
internships that can provide an entry into these fields.
The report, “Breaking the Green Ceiling: Investing in Young Workers of Color, Paid Environmental Internships, Career
Pathways,“ is part of Got Green’s Green Pathways Campaign, which advocates for creating more career pathways to
leadership positions for young people of color that will benefit our communities and the environment. The term “green ceiling”
refers to the 16% cap of people of color employed in green fields including, foundations, non-profits, government agencies.
Community partners – Environmental Professionals of Color, Youth Speaks, The Washington Bus, and Food Empowerment
Education Sustainability Team (FEEST) joined Got Green’s Young Leaders to make the announcement outside the King
County Detention Center.
“There’s been a lot of talk lately about income gaps in our region, we need to move from conversations to action,” said Mo!
Avery, Got Green’s Young Leaders Organizer. “The Young Leaders chose the Youth Jail for the press conference to illustrate
where funds that could be used to invest in our youth are actually going. Rather than funding organizations that could train the
youth and give them valuable career skills to help uplift our communities, money is instead being poured into an institution that
often acts as a massive barrier to careers and upward mobility for young people of color.”
According to report findings, in many green industries, unpaid internships have become a replacement for entry-level, paid
jobs. Unpaid internships create significant barriers for many young people of color who often cannot afford to work without
compensation. Instead, young workers of color find minimum wage jobs with no career trajectory and limited employment
skills, making it even more difficult to pursue meaningful work for our communities and environment.
Got Green applauds the Mayor’s recently announced Youth Employment Initiative that will create 2000 new jobs. This is a
move in the right direction that Got Green is working to build off of. Got Green’s recommendations from the report include;
expand the definition and number of “green” paid work experience opportunities which we define as good for the environment
and our communities at the same time; do targeted outreach to young adults of color to increase racial diversity in the
environmental jobs field; develop systems to help young adults move into career pathways.
“Seattle is a leader in climate action, but falls short on equity measures, we risk leaving behind the young adults who can help
us maintain that leadership role tomorrow. The investment in a brighter future and a healthier planet begins with investing in
the empowerment of the youth of color,” said Laurie Torres, Got Green Young Leader.
This group of strong, dedicated, passionate, intelligent and driven women who have been engaged in the climate justice movement have come together to share their experiences as Women and as Activists.
The audience loved them!
Answering difficult questions and sharing their personal stories of growing up fused with depictions of dealing with stereotypes, racism, sexism and self-doubt, they connected with people in a way that is often hard to achieve. Many people thanked them over and over for having the courage to speak out about the things that they too have also felt, but not had the space or felt safe enough to express their truth.
They were also able to pull together many of the organizations active in the climate justice movement into a unified initiative to expose the truth of so many of our movements for justice, that is, they are being led by women; and that women of color from front-line communities need and should be at the forefront of the movement.
It was a beautiful event and I hear that there is much more to come.
When we first met I was drawn to you like a wave to the beach, and with each opportunity that presented itself, I was compelled to meet and join with you.
And after all this time, this– beautiful, amazing, life changing, powerful, passionate–time, I am still drawn to you like the moon to the sun, and I can do naught but let your warmth wash over me, your light eradiate me and illuminate my being, it is your essence which causes me to vibrantly shine throughout the evening sky.
You are my soul mate, and although you do not make me whole, for I was complete before you lighted within my sight, you nonetheless, enhance each and every one of my fibers, nay, every molecule of my being vibrates at a higher rate, to the point that I live on a new plane of existence with you, you revitalize and rejuvenate and are who make my life worth living.
You are the love of my life and I would never trade one microscopic moment for anything else, I love you.
And even though we an fly, sometimes it’s just nice to enjoy the moment and slow life down a bit, soaking in a good conversation on community transit.