DevNW and Community LendingWorks add our voices to the growing chorus of grief and outrage over the violence against Black people in America that has long-since past a crisis point. Manuel Ellis was killed by police in Tacoma. Breonna Taylor was killed in her bed by police in Kentucky. Ahmaud Arbery was killed by vigilantes in Georgia. George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Black Americans, all of them. Killed in just the last three months. Because words matter, DevNW/CLW will use our voice to say unequivocally that Black Lives Matter. White supremacy must end. Police brutality must end. And until that day comes, the protesters flooding our streets should be supported, joined, celebrated, encouraged, and protected.
Words matter, but they are not sufficient. Personal and organizational accountability also matter. As a white woman in this predominantly white state, I have spent years trying to understand my white privilege and unlearn my racism. But it’s not enough to just unlearn my racism, I must put in the work to be anti-racist, and I challenge my fellow white Oregonians to do the same. As the CEO of a white-led organization whose core work (in housing, asset building, and neighborhood development) is inseparably linked to racial discrimination, oppression, and inequality, I acknowledge that if we are not using our resources to actively unwind that inequality, then we are part of the problem. Here is just some of the work that DevNW and CLW commit to do:
● To engage with the Black Lives Matter movement by listening, learning and amplifying the voices of Black activists and leaders;
● To actively engage our white staff in learning about white privilege and white fragility, in examining our beliefs and actions that contribute to racism as a whole and anti-Blackness in particular. The burden of this work will not fall on Black people and people of color;
● To actively engage our staff of color in examining how anti-Blackness often exists in other communities of color;
● To incorporate anti-racist practices at every level of our organization, from hiring and staff development, to service programs, to housing, including specific training in recognizing and dismantling anti-Blackness.
And beyond DevNW/CLW, we must also call out and take concrete actions to dismantle the deeper systemic racism that pervades our civic, social, and economic systems and has contributed to the oppression of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) for centuries. All of us must do this work. Especially those of us who hold positions of influence and power, who have control of resources. If we don’t actively dismantle these systems, then we are part of the problem. Here are just a few examples of systemic, entrenched racial injustice close to the DevNW and CLW worlds:
● Every business loan that requires 100% collateral or a personal guarantor reinforces the privilege of those who already have wealth (or wealthy networks), further contributes to the oppression of BIPOC communities (who have been systematically excluded from accumulating the very assets we now require to start a business), and perpetuates a cycle of discrimination and disinvestment in BIPOC businesses, jobs, and communities. To my fellow economic developers, bankers, investors, and public officials: we need anti-racist small business capital.
● Every neighborhood restricted to single family zoning perpetuates a history of housing discrimination and segregation, limiting housing types and affordability, and creating a de facto entry tax into the vast majority of neighborhoods in our state. The yard signs may read “All Are Welcome Here” but only if you can afford the entry price of a traditional single family home ($350,000 in Eugene, $415,000 in Corvallis, over $1M in some Portland neighborhoods), which, given the reality of income and wealth inequality in our country, too often excludes BIPOC families – reinforcing the racial wealth gap and intensifying racial segregation in our neighborhoods and schools. To my fellow residents of single family neighborhoods, housing developers, and public officials: we need anti-racist zoning.
● Every stimulus check that was denied to a Brown or Mixed-Race family (simply because of the immigration status of any one person in the household), perpetuates the systemic and financial oppression of millions of Americans – of our friends, neighbors, coworkers, and their children. To public officials at every level of government: we need anti-racist public assistance.
DevNW and CLW will use our voices, our influence, and our resources to work toward these deeper systemic changes, while we continue to put in the work to be anti-racist. We will not shy away from positions that are unpopular with white-dominated power structures, and we will seek to include, amplify, and be led by the Black and Brown voices that are too often excluded from these policy conversations.
We cannot go back to the way things were. DevNW and CLW commit (as we all must commit) to ongoing, difficult work, to ensure that this protest movement translates into systemic and lasting change centered on the core of racial equity.