Say their names… George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tanisha Anderson, Michael Brown Jr., Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, and here in Oregon, Quanice Hayes, Patrick Kimmons, Keaton Otis, Kendra James, Terrell Johnson, Andre Gladen, Aaron Campbell and the tens of thousands of other Black men and women who have been murdered nationwide due to police brutality and white supremacy. These are not just onetime incidents but the continuation of 500 years of racist oppression which is the historical legacy of this country.

People across the country have taken to the streets calling for systemic change far broader than police accountability. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exposed Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have once again been disproportionately affected by this most recent crisis. There are widespread inequities communities of color face accessing quality health care, education, affordable and safe housing, and building generational wealth.

We should settle for nothing less than seeing their calls for eliminating police and state violence against BIPOC as a human right coupled with access to health care, housing, education, and a living wage as basic human rights.

Housing Oregon calls upon the affordable housing industry to follow the lead of BIPOC in support of their calls for change. Look to the Coalition of Communities of Color and others for specific recommendations for police accountability. Look to Congressional leaders of color, along with Oregon’s Congressman Blumenauer, who have called for “The People’s Housing Platform,” a set of proposals to address homelessness and housing poverty.

“Let’s be clear – housing justice and racial justice are inextricably linked,” stated National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel. “Today’s housing crisis does disproportionate harm to Blacks and Latinos. Most severely cost-burdened and deeply poor renters are people of color, the result of decades of discrimination and racist policies.”

Housing Oregon has incorporated the following racial equity lens questions into our bylaws for consideration of policy, programs, practices or decisions. As Director of Housing Oregon, I commit to working with my board and member organizations to expand use of this tool:

  1. Who are the racial/ethnic groups affected by this policy, program, practice or decision? And what are the potential impacts on these groups?
  2. Does this policy, program, practice or decision ignore or worsen existing disparities or produce other unintended consequences?
  3. How has the organization intentionally involved stakeholders who are also members of the communities affected by this policy, program, practice or decision? Can the organization validate the above assessments?
  4. What are the barriers to more equitable outcomes? (e.g. geographic, mandated, political, emotional, financial, programmatic or managerial)
  5. How will the organization mitigate the negative impacts and address the barriers identified above?

This current crisis calls upon white people to step outside of our comfort zone, to lean in, and join communities of color in calls for holding our systems of government and police accountable. The path to racial justice necessitates white allies constantly challenge their privilege, refuse to be silent, and recognize being anti-racist is not a sprint but a marathon.