From the Director – February 2020

By Janet Byrd

Our national partner, Prosperity Now, just released their Assets and Opportunity Scorecard. It shows, not surprisingly, that we have a long way to go to build the Oregon we all want to see. Oregonians are struggling to get by, and struggling even harder to be stable and get ahead. In recent years, Prosperity Now and the Scorecard have worked hard and gotten better at looking beyond the surface to show data by race and ethnicity. With this lens, the data is even more alarming. While white people, especially in rural areas in Oregon, are struggling, people of color – Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and others – are reeling from the effects of systemic barriers and historic disinvestment.

We can and must do better. We need to act differently, as a state, and as individuals.

At the state level, we have the tools to make a difference, and we need to invest in those tools. The Oregon Individual Development Account Initiative is first on our list as we enter the 2020 Oregon Legislative session. We need action to keep the Initiative vibrant, serving rural communities and communities of color. The proposal (HB 4003) set forth by the Joint Task Force on Addressing Racial Disparities in Homeownership is also high on our priority list. Homeownership is still the way that most people in America build the financial cushion that will help them manage hard times, send their kids to college, and retire. We also need to sustain the housing investments of the past few sessions – and start looking at needed new tools, like the Housing Alliance’s proposal to study long term rent assistance.

As people, building the Oregon we all want to see will also require some of us to think and act differently. The staff at Neighborhood Partnerships took to heart the message of the final plenary session at the RE:Conference, and those of us who are white read and discussed the book White Fragility by Robin Diangelo. She does a masterful job of illuminating the thought patterns that get in the way of us being better actors and allies in the work to eliminate racism and racist structures. She reminds us that because we all grew up in and function in a system that is grounded in and structured to maintain racism, we all have work to do to eliminate the habits, patterns of thought, and behaviors that get in the way of real change.

Neighborhood Partnerships is committed to this work, and to evaluating our work on the basis of our real impacts, as evaluated with the best tools we can find, and with metrics that look beyond the superficial. We are grateful, as always, for your partnership in this effort.

We encourage you to dig into the Prosperity Now Assets and Opportunity Scorecard data. And to learn from Robin DiAngelo’s work, there’s her book, an article titled Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism, and video of Ms. DiAngelo available.