Race and social justice initiatives in Seattle

Seattle is marking the one-year anniversary of its Race and Social Justice Initiative ordinance. Mount Holyoke Associate Professor Serin D. Houston writes that other cities can learn from the ordinance in an article for The Conversation.

Amid a landscape where states across the country are shutting down diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, Seattle is marking the one-year anniversary of its Race and Social Justice Initiative ordinance. Serin D. Houston, associate professor of geography and international relations, and her co-author, Dan Trudeau, believe that other cities can learn from the ordinance and detailed this in a piece for The Conversation. 

The Race and Social Justice Initiative was passed in April 2023, and while the program is still too new to evaluate the effect, Houston and Trudeau write, “It’s our belief that more commitments like Seattle’s are needed if the U.S. is to make substantive progress on racial equity.”

In the article, they laud the professional development trainings that ensure common understandings of how racism affects city government, such as determining the location of city meetings and recognizing the importance of having city materials available in multiple languages. 

They also cite Seattle’s Racial Equity Toolkit. “This toolkit describes each step to be taken to evaluate whether or not a policy, initiative, program or budget item alleviates or furthers racial inequities,” they wrote. “The toolkit is regularly updated and used throughout the city government to make decisions about everything from school lunches to maintenance repairs for city-owned vehicles.”

Houston and Trudeau caution other cities against copying Seattle’s approach wholesale and rather advise first assessing the “local context of racial and social justice, and then adapting what worked in Seattle to advance racial equity in each place.” 

After all, they wrote, “Everyone benefits from more equitable approaches to urban governance. Crafting and sustaining municipal programs that focus on racial equity is possible for cities seeking a more just future.”

Read the full article. 

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