Parsing racism in Seattle’s parks department
Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation is taking on “institutional racism.”
“What we are challenged to do is be more inclusive and creative,” said Ron Harris-White, Seattle Parks and Recreation manager of special projects, at a July 14 meeting of the Seattle Board of Park Commissioners.
The parks effort is part of the five-year-old Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI), which aims to end institutional racism and address racial disparities in the city government.
Institutional racism is “the inequities that develop, exist and take hold as standard practice when we don’t think about racial and cultural equity,” said Dewey Potter, communications manager for Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Meetings, and how they are held, can be a factor.
“When we call a community meeting at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. in the middle of the week, who comes? Middle-class people, mostly white folks,” said Harris-White. “They represent people who have a lot of time on their hands.”
To address these issues, a 19-member “change team” from Seattle Parks and Recreation created a “tool kit” that includes a checklist of questions that should be answered when reviewing any new proposed project. For example, “Does this impact the community?” “Is this impacting individuals?” and “Is this fair?”
Offering a more diverse range of parks programs may be another solution.
“You are going to see dedications of our athletic fields to other kinds of sports and activities,” said Desiree Tabares, co-lead of the Race and Social Justice Change Team for parks and recreation, “things that could be considered non-traditional, so that people who are immigrating into this region have the opportunity to play and recreate in our fields.”
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