Make your Voice Heard on Race Equity in Salem
It’s been a few months since the race equity task force in Salem was created. When asked if I would consider joining, it was easy for me to say yes. However, what was not so easy was how I could help address racism, a made-up phenomenon designed years ago and to this day is deeply rooted in our society. It operates in silence without many of us knowing that it’s even there. We sense it when we hear a bad word or watch a video that someone has captured showing an act of overt hatred toward one another. But what is not so easy to see are the workings of racism woven into the fabric of our institutions, policies, laws and culture. It also doesn’t take an individual to make it come to life and have a negative impact on each and every one of us. For example, if racism was a car, it would actually drive itself. You would never have to touch the controls. The moment you get in, the car would just go. Without needing any gas.
Racism is hard to unpack because so many of us don’t know what it actually is. It’s more than an insensitive or derogatory word; it’s more than prejudice, and it’s even more than discrimination. We all have different experiences and therefore are often at odds when trying to confront it. So, with this in mind, imagine being asked to address race equity in the city of Salem. Where do you start? As chair, I believed that it was important for the Task Force to start slow. Before even diving into the work, it was essential to get to know one another as people. It was vital for me to help create a framework that would allow us to think outside of the box. And it’s even more important to me to get this right. In Salem, a place that I love, we are all interconnected, and I would like to help contribute to something bigger than myself to make this place we call home better than we received it.
The Salem Race Equity Task Force is now at a place where the work can begin. In response to the protests against racial injustice occurring throughout the country, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll mobilized this Race Equity Task Force to foster a more equitable, racially just and inclusive environment for our community residents and those visiting this great city. We were initially charged in finding inequities that are tangible, immediately fixable, and with identifiable solutions. Based on individuals that make up the group and their areas of expertise, we’ve identified five areas where we feel we can have the most impact: education, economics, culture, public safety and health care. We also understood that our voices are not the only ones that matter and as such I humbly ask for community input to help inform this endeavor. You will find a link to a survey. My hope is to keep it live over the next few weeks to get a sense of the issues that matter to Salem most. The link will remain active until Jan. 8. As the task force begins to do research and identify race equity gaps, this input will serve valuable in the process. Our plan is to present this information back to the community in the form of a webinar in the new year. Additionally, we are currently designing a website that will hopefully be informative to what we are doing along with any progress being made. I’m also mindful that we have already received lots of request to get involved and there will be a page dedicated to just that as well.
We want to make a difference. As a society, we want to create the type of change that will last beyond our lifetime. However, fear, distrust, anger, denial, guilt, ignorance, naiveté and the wish for simple solutions can often fill the process with surprises and emotional intensity. My hope and that of the task force is to transform awareness, make meaningful and purposeful change and encourage a deeper commitment to ending racism in our small part of the world. If I didn’t think race equity could be achieved, I wouldn’t have agreed to participate in this task force. I’m sure that together, we can make progress. I once heard that a journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step, and as long as I’m able to, I intend to walk to wherever this road takes me. Let’s do it together.
The survey is in both English and Spanish and is anonymous. The link will remain active until Jan. 8.
To take the survey, please go to https://bridgew.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/fo… or use the QR code below.
Want to get involved? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you in advance!
Shawn Newton, Chair of the Salem Race Equity Task Force