Honoring humanity creates an equitable and just society.
The Washington State Office of Equity champions equity and justice for the Black Community and celebrates the rich Black Community heritage that has shaped the state’s history and is instrumental to its future success. We work to ensure that everyone in the Black Community has equitable access to the opportunities, power, and resources they need to succeed and are welcomed, supported, and feel a sense of belonging when working in or seeking assistance from state agencies. We count on the commitment, partnership, and support of the Black Community and Black Community leaders – across the state, inside and outside of state government, - in this important work of dismantling the historic, systemic, power dynamics that oppress Black communities, while building new systems and safeguards that advance representation and ensure Black Community access to participation in all aspects of society (such as, government, business, education) until each and every person in the Black Community in the state flourishes and achieves their full potential.
The first Black people of record came to Washington state in 1845 when George Bush, his wife, Isabella, and their children left Missouri and settled in the area now called Bush Prairie. Since then, many more Black individuals have come to call Washington home in search of opportunity, freedom, and peace. World War II brought a tremendous increase in the region’s African American population through those recruited to work in defense industries. Washington’s Black Community is diverse and makes up 8% of the state’s population. The growing Black Community faced racism and oppression in Washington, as did all the communities of color in the state. Much of that history is still coming to light. There was intimidation and violence, red lining and other forms of legalized segregation, employment discrimination, voting restrictions and other forms of racism meant to limit Black economic mobility, safety, and integration directly. To this day, there are still Washington communities with restrictive land covenants in their leases that prohibit selling properties to Black people.
Despite these oppressive tactics, the Black Community has found a way to succeed in all arenas of social and cultural life, including contributions to the aerospace industry, founding of Black Student Unions in Washington colleges and universities, Black affinity and employee and business resource groups, and efforts that led to desegregation of the trade unions and more. Black people continue to innovate in their contributions to the state’s overall success financially, celebrate and host celebrations of our culture and make a way out of no way.
In Washington, the Black Community continues the fight for equity in such areas as:
- Eradicating racism from our systems, especially within the criminal justice, education, and health systems. Black people are still overrepresented in our criminal justice systems, do not receive the same resources for education, are disproportionately impacted by the school-to-prison pipeline and experience disproportionate outcomes in health care.
- Removing barriers from economic mobility by advocating for policies such as living wages, wealth-building and eliminating obstacles in human service programs.
- Having Black voices, Black bodies and Black minds honored, respected, and seen as deserving of full membership in the human family, deserving of human rights, telling our own stories and living our own authentic lives.
Black Community organizations and individuals throughout Washington are excited to have our voices heard through and in partnership with the Office of Equity to assist in establishing equity and justice for all.
Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another. Archbishop Desmond Tutu
We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color. Maya Angelou