By Janet Byrd
In our work to create opportunity in Oregon, Neighborhood Partnerships is focused on increasing equitable outcomes, and especially on increasing positive impacts and outcomes for communities of color. As we evaluate policy, and consider our advocacy priorities, we look for policies that are designed especially with equity in mind.
This emphasis on policy that is both deliberate and focused is essential. While we know that everyone wants and deserves the same success for themselves, their children, and their communities, we also know that policies that aren’t designed to maximize impact in communities of color will only increase the overall disparities we see between people of color and white people. Policies that are designed to benefit “all of Oregon” will not impact the persistent and profound poverty in the rural counties.
We know these disparities are real, and are profound. The African American Financial Capability Initiative, which focused on several cities including Portland, published a report (see page 63-66) including a data factsheet that highlights the glaring inequities. They labeled the fact sheet “A Tale of Two Cities”. Half of Portland’s white population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, while one in five blacks does. One in five whites has zero net worth, while two in five blacks have zero net worth. Median family income for whites is over $85,000, and for blacks it is $35,000.
How do we do better? We make a commitment to pursuing policy that is specifically designed to overcome inequities. We learn how to use the tools like equity centered community design that center the voices of people impacted most by the policy or program. We trust and value the expertise found within our communities and share power. We commit to measuring our progress and publishing our data, so that we can be held accountable to improving outcomes. We can learn to articulate why we need to pay attention to class disparities as well as race and ethnicity in our work, so that our whole community can be strong.
We hope you’ll join us in this work. At this year’s RE:Conference, we will be hosting practicum sessions to launch our work together on this issue, and are designed to give us the tools to start and do this work together. We’re excited at what is shaping up to be our best conference yet. I hope to see you there.