The Tacoma Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium (TPCAHC) and its members share the nation’s anguish over the recent spate of police killings of black people. Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ms. Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Mr. Rayshard Brooks of Atlanta, and Mr. Manuel Ellis in Tacoma take their place on a long list. We note these killings are part of a national history of governmental and private violence to enforce a white supremacy. We feel the range of distress, sadness, anger, and other emotions that show in the national and local protests.
The nation’s history of racial injustice has a special pertinence to TPCAHC, in two ways.
First, that history of inequality has long shown in the nation’s housing markets, and the markets of Pierce County. It shows in ways that help explain why black families today on average have one-seventh the assets of average white families, poorer health, and shorter lives. Local, state, and national policies, as well as public and private violence, have segregated these markets on purpose. The nation’s major investments that created generations of a prospering middle class included housing initiatives that excluded black families: the homestead program that settled the Midwest (on land taken from native people), the G.I. Bill, the subsidized home mortgage, the invention of the 30 year mortgage, residential zoning, and the enormous civic infrastructure to build the suburbs. These investments baked the nation’s legacy of racial oppression into these new housing markets, not only segregating them intentionally, but also assigning people of color to the worst or weakest of the housing, jobs, and schools. What this means for housing is that there is not only a lot of work to do. There is also a lot of work to undo.
The doing and undoing of this work is the job of the TPCAHC and its members. This work enlists us in a centuries-old struggle that the recent police killings show clearly is far from over. The housing challenge, and the nation’s challenge, is to create communities that help people live across deeply imbedded dividing lines: homeowner/renter and lines of race, income, color, national origin, language, age, and ability and disability. That is hard work.
Second, TPCAHC and its members also have work to do in our own organizations. We all have to be or become places that show our values of racial equity, diversity, and inclusion as workplaces, as community members, in who we serve, and how we serve them.
This work can help us feel a more constructive emotion in response to the recent national events. We can use the energy of our anguish for a renewed commitment to the work for ourselves, our workplace, and our community to build an equitable future. At another distressing moment in the same long struggle, President Lincoln asked the nation for a similar dedication to what he called “the unfinished work”, and what Frederick Douglass called “the great, paramount imperative and all commanding question for this age and nation to solve.” We at TPCAHC will do our part.
We pose the following questions to ourselves to discern ways in which we can advance racial equity and work to undo the systems of oppression for people of color:
1. What does racial equity mean for TPCAHC as an organization and for our Board;
2. How can TPCAHC help our membership advance racial equity; and
3. How can a focus on racial equity show in TPCAHC’s advocacy?
Our first step in this work is the creation by the TPCAHC Board of its first Racial Equity Committee. Through this Committee, we will examine ways in which we can hold ourselves accountable to advancing racial equity across our community and within our housing systems.
We are making the commitment to our community that we can do better, and we look forward to sharing our work with you soon.
Photo credit: Grit City Magazine: https://gritcitymag.com/2020/06/demand-justice-for-manuel-ellis/