VashonBePrepared Statement on Racial Equality

The following statement has been approved by a majority of VashonBePrepared Board Members June 7, 2020. Thanks to President Vicky de Monterey Richoux for crafting this.

In recent weeks we've witnessed devastating news of yet more innocent Black people being killed by police. Use of undue force has been used against peaceful protestors while they were exercising their First Amendment rights, further inflaming the situation. These events occur not in a time of relative political, economic, and social ease, but after months of fears, tensions, illnesses and deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Systemic racism combines with the COVID-19 pandemic, or any type of disaster, to result in far more dire outcomes for people of color, including:

  • History shows that, following any disaster, our most vulnerable neighbors are affected first and worst.
  • In King county, Blacks, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) are sickening and dying in disproportionate numbers. Health disparities of race and place over many decades have set the stage for worse health outcomes from the novel coronavirus.
  • In addition to suffering disproportionate job losses, people of color more often hold 'essential' jobs that require in-person work, which puts them at far greater danger of contracting COVID- 19.

Rather than pull up the drawbridge, volunteers in Vashon’s preparedness community have extended their hands: the Medical Reserve Corps' Rural Test and Trace Toolkit has been shared to other rural and tribal communities around Washington state and beyond, and the testing program here on Vashon is available to all, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. Other volunteers on the Emergency Operations team have made pointed efforts to aid groups of our fellow residents who may experience barriers to communication and assistance, such as Latinx neighbors and people with low- or no digital access. The Emergency Operations team has prioritized getting information and aid to renters, families suffering food scarcity and housing insecurity, struggling small businesses and laid-off employees, and isolated elders. The Situation Reports published on the website now regularly include information on demographic disparities relating to the pandemic. Vashon’s preparedness leaders are making plans to provide training to all preparedness volunteers, in diversity, inclusion, and equity.

But there’s still much work ahead. Beyond posting hashtags on social media or making donations in the moment, we each face the sometimes uncomfortable task of learning and confronting our own implicit biases. In redressing racism, people with greater privilege are obligated to continue speaking up on behalf of others with less voice, working for broader inclusion, and insisting on equal justice for all. That ongoing work is perhaps the ultimate expression of VashonBePrepared's motto, 'Neighbors Helping Neighbors'.