SEATTLE – Seattle City Councilmember Tammy Morales (District 2 – Southeast Seattle & Chinatown-International District), Mayor Bruce Harrell, and Seattle Office for Civil Rights Director Derrick Wheeler-Smith celebrated the unanimous passage of an ordinance officially codifying the City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) into law. This will permanently solidify the City of Seattle’s commitment to engaging in its work with an equity lens.
The Race and Social Justice Initiative has been in place since 2004. It is the backbone of the City’s commitment to eliminating racial disparities and achieving racial equity in Seattle. However, since its inception, the Race and Social Justice Initiative has been in place by executive order, and it has never been formally codified into law.
Noting this, a 2019 Racial Equity Toolkit report recommended the City codify the program to address any potential for political influence in the process and to strengthen the ability of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights to fulfill its mission.
This legislation accomplishes that by doing 4 main things:
- Permanently codifies the Race and Social Justice Initiative as law
- Permanently houses Race and Social Justice Initiative work and oversight at the Office for Civil Rights
- Authorizes the Office for Civil Rights to create an accountability structure with metrics for city departments to engage in ending racial disparity in the City via the permanent Race and Social Justice Initiative division
- Details how the Seattle Department of Human Resources will begin updating our city’s system of civil service and exempt positions
“Today, after 18 years, I am so proud to announce that the City of Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative is officially law,” said Councilmember Tammy Morales. “As a former Human Rights Commissioner, I was involved in the department’s community-led assessment of the initiative. Now, as we work towards a just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and address our ongoing housing crisis, this ordinance is needed more than ever. This is a historic step towards repairing the harms of past policies and practices that were racist and we are excited to permanently solidify the city’s commitment to actively engaging in anti-racist practices that will benefit all Seattle residents.”
“To realize our vision for an equitable, inclusive One Seattle, we must ensure all of our policies are intentional in how they are built from the ground up,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “The Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI) and its goals of uplifting the voices of underrepresented communities is a cause I championed on council, and this legislation to codify it is over a decade in the making. I’m thankful for the collaboration with Councilmember Morales that led to the adoption of today’s bill and look forward to our continued partnership to increase access to opportunities for all communities.”
“RSJI has been around for 20 years and we are excited about the passing of this ordinance,” said Seattle Office for Civil Rights Director Derrick Wheeler-Smith. “It will cement the important work of building shared humanity by bridging across differences, so that we organize systems and structures to increase agency for the persecuted and prevented groups in the City of Seattle.”