Sixty-eight years ago, Washington State passed the Law Against Discrimination, deciding that “discrimination against any of its inhabitants because of race, creed, color or national origin are a matter of state concern, that such discrimination threatens not only the rights and proper privileges of its inhabitants but menaces the institutions and foundation of a free democratic state.” That was almost two decades before the federal Civil Rights Act.
But Washington still faces huge gaps in the welfare of different members of our society. From education and healthcare to income and retirement, where residents stand on the spectrum is still largely influenced by the color of their skin.
These gaps persist because societal structures — such as housing, jobs, economics, transportation, legal systems and social opportunities — are organized in ways that benefit some groups unfairly over others, whether intended or not. And they work in concert. The effects of gaps in opportunity compound over lifetimes and generations, propagating a system of inequality.
This system does not support the values of Washington State, but we uphold it by underfunding education, taxing the poor at higher rates than the rich, enforcing laws inequitably, and a web of other interconnected factors.