May 25, 2022 Blog
Update on Our Continued Anti-Racism and Equity Work
Like so many others, the events of 2020 prompted us to reflect on our role in and relationship to harmful systems and our responsibility to be accomplices in the fight for racial justice. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery served as painful evidence that gun violence and systemic racism are inextricably linked. It is impossible to end the gun violence epidemic without rooting out the racism and injustice knit into the fabric of our country. And it is impossible to create a truly equitable and just future without ending gun violence.
In 2020, we shared this statement and resource guide and invited our community to join us in committing to anti-racism work. Last year, we shared an update on the work we had done since our initial statement.
As we wrote last year, we know that in order for our anti-racist work to be meaningful, it must be ongoing. We believe it must also be transparent, not for the sake of recognition, but for the sake of openness and accountability. Today, on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, we are sharing some concrete steps we have taken in the last year to deepen and expand this work.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Team:
In 2021, we began working with Momentum Professional Strategy Partners to develop and implement a strategic plan to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion internally. Phase I included the formation of a steering committee and a four-month deep-dive into understanding the state of DEI at the Alliance, compiling outcomes, and proposing a path forward. Phase II of the plan is currently underway and includes a series of workshops where we put these ideas into practice with the Alliance staff, consultants, and board. A key goal of this plan is to increase diversity among the Alliance team. Currently, one-third of staff members identify as BIPOC and 44% identify as LGBTQIA+.
Black Chapter Team:
This year, we launched a statewide Black Chapter Team, conducting outreach to more than 65 Black-led organizations. This chapter team is the first of its kind and seeks to give Black people a space to organize, discuss the challenges and opportunities specific to their communities, and inform the Alliance’s work. Knowing that many of the Alliance chapter teams are predominantly white, and that the gun violence prevention movement has long centered white voices, we are committed to expanding the Black Chapter Team to ensure that those most impacted by gun violence are driving conversations about how to address it.
In 2021, we hosted two summits—convenings of experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders—addressing the intersection of white supremacy, political extremism, and gun violence. The first explored the history and current connections between white supremacy, gun laws and gun violence. For the second, we partnered with the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety on a virtual summit examining far right extremism and militia groups in the Pacific Northwest. The program covered how extremist groups used the pandemic to further their agenda and the alarming uptick of collusion between extremist groups, white nationalists, law enforcement, public leaders, and elected officials.
This year we also had the opportunity to participate in two conferences on youth and gun violence that specifically focused on the experience of BIPOC youth. Our team presented at and participated in the School’s Out Washington Bridge Conference and Moving in Solidarity Youth Summit. At each conference, presentations centered the experiences of BIPOC youth and were co-led and organized by Alliance interns, also BIPOC youth.
GOTV and PAC work:
We reapplied a racial justice lens in an internal review of our overall PAC process with the goal of eliminating aspects of the process that reinforce structures of white privilege. That led to several changes, including:
- Adjusting our candidate outreach with specific attention to finding and supporting individuals who would represent underrepresented and/or over-impacted communities.
- Expanding the number of staff included in the endorsement process to include a broader diversity of perspectives.
- Emphasizing the importance of community violence intervention (CVI) work and including representatives of our CVI partner orgs to participate in our endorsement process.
- Adjusting our candidate questionnaire to specifically ask about commitment to racial justice work, implementation of police accountability laws, and support for CVI work
- Expanding our messaging and policy training to reach more candidates (we held two for the first time, with more than 100 participants) and to focus a portion of the conversation on CVI strategies and police accountability opportunities for local jurisdictions.
- Along with our partner Grandmothers Against Gun Violence and moderator South Seattle Emerald founder Marcus Harrison Green, hosting two candidate forums in top Seattle races with specific questions aimed at understanding candidates’ positions on policing and CVI work.
- Updating our review process to capture demonstrated community leadership and less heavily weigh viability.
- Changing financing priorities to prioritize giving early to candidates with historic barriers to resources.
Our field team focused resources on BIPOC and candidates directly impacted by gun violence. We prioritized engagement in the following races:
- Joe Todd, Renton City Council, Position 1
- Carmen Rivera, Renton City Council, Position 1
- Jacob Simpson, Seatac City Council, Position 3
- Iris Guzman, Seatac City Council, Position 6
- Zack Zappone, Spokane City Council District, Position 3
- Anne Artman, Tacoma City Council, District 5
- Victoria Woodard, Tacoma City Mayor
- Nikkita Oliver, Seattle City Council, District 9
- Toshiko Hasegawa, Port of Seattle Position 4
Policy Development and Advocacy:
We have developed an equity tool to apply to our policy development process, which consists of questions designed to expose potential unintended policy consequences that may harm BIPOC communities. This tool helped lead to the decision to remove a provision of SB 5078 that would have criminalized possession of high-capacity magazines. Instead, the policy focused on the sale and manufacturing of these deadly accessories, a supply-side approach
We also continued our support of legislation to improve police accountability and stood against legislation that attempted to roll back progress made in the 2021 legislative session.
Finally, we prioritized advocating for state funding for local CVI programming through the Office of Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention.
We hope that our community of supporters and partners will hold us accountable to the commitment we have made to act as accomplices in the fight to dismantle white supremacy. Please email us at [email protected] to provide feedback, criticism, and ideas on our racial justice work.
– Renée Hopkins is the CEO of the Alliance