The Racial Equity Work Group for Thurston County met with the Board of County Commissioners to discuss their plans and goals for the Racial Equity Action Plan.
Racial Equity Program Manager Devi Ogden emphasized a focus on training County members to increase their understanding of institutional and structural racism among those who work for and represent the county.
District 2 Commissioner Gary Edwards questioned the idea, asking, “If there was going to be any kind of mandatory training, why couldn't we include some combined and different topics? Why does it have to be exclusive?”
County Manager Ramino Chavez mentioned that there were already existing training programs for sexual harassment, and Edwards inquired whether components related to Racial Equity could be incorporated into these programs to save taxpayers' money.
“Why are we focusing on race and not other categories like gender or socioeconomic status?” asked Ogden. “We noticed that when you focus on race, you're able to lift other oppressed groups as well.”
Ogden added that they want to be intentional about saying that when we address race as a systemic issue, all of the other groups—socioeconomic status, gender, sexual identity, all those struggles that people experience can be lifted as well when we're able to address racism.
The Racial Equity Council plans to collaborate with government directors and other members to establish equity leads, including conducting surveys among county members to gauge their existing knowledge about institutional systemic racism and internal bias, with the goal of achieving a 50% response rate among county employees.
Commissioner Carolina Mejia from District 1 shared, that drawing from her personal experience growing up, she also intends to develop a solution for non-English speakers residing within the county, ensuring they can access various services without being denied or required to provide their own interpreter.
These plans are also rooted in the Racial Covenant that occurred in Washington in the twentieth century, which aimed at preventing non-white individuals from purchasing or occupying land.
A member of the council, Dr. Auzimuth Jackson, expressed hope that the goals they addressed during the meeting would provoke contemplation among the county members about how they perceive and embrace these changes, while also anticipating that these trainings will catalyze change within the community.
Another meeting is scheduled for September 18 to continue the discussion, work on establishing bylaws, and plan future meetings to delve into their goals and plans, as envisioned by the Racial Equity members.
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