Coalition urges legislators to work towards racial, economic equity

Leaders from Washington’s African American, Latino, Asian, Native American, and Middle Eastern communities gathered Monday in Seattle, Spokane, Olympia, Tacoma and the Tri-Cities to release the new report “Facing Race: 2012 Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity.”

According to a press release from the Washington Community Action Network (Washington CAN), the report was endorsed by 52 organizations throughout the state, and assesses the performance of the Washington Legis­lature during the 2011 and 2012 regular sessions on issues that impact racial and economic equity. The Legislature earned a “D.”

People of color currently represent nearly 30 percent of Washington residents, and that number is expected to grow, according to a press release. Nearly 1 in 5 of Washingtonians are either Latino or Asian and our state is home to over 886,000 immigrants.

Despite these shifting demographics, staggering racial disparities exist across almost all social indicators. These disparities are largely a result of policy decisions that are made every year by the Legislature on issues such as education, housing, taxation, health care, civil rights, and tribal sovereignty.

“Legislators have a choice,” said Marley Hochendoner, executive director of the Northwest Fair Housing Alliance and speaker at the Seattle release. “And their votes can either increase access and opportunities, or reinforce barriers that deny some families the opportunities they need to thrive.”

By focusing on the missed opportunities indicated in the report (bills that would have advanced racial equity in Washington but did not pass the Legislature), each release reinforced the message that a new chapter begins next session and that there is a clear path forward for the Legislature.

The path toward racial equity, according to the report, includes the expansion of Medicaid and the implementation of the Basic Health Option, the Washington Voting Rights Act, prohibiting mandatory e-verify, abolishing the death penalty, and bills that would protect worker safety and stability, expand access to dental care and broaden access to early learning.

“We can't afford to let the Legislature avoid our revenue crisis by passing yet another all-cuts budget in the upcoming session,” said Tia Griffin, a Gonzaga graduate and Spokane mother of four. “Closing corporate tax loopholes and having the state's wealthiest pay their fair share will allow us to preserve vital investments in education, health care and other programs that are necessary to providing a more equal opportunity and prosperity for all people in Washington.”

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