Seattle University School of Law is a proud member of the Washington Race Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI). We respectfully acknowledge that events at the law school are taking place on occupied Coast Salish land and that Seattle University is on the homelands of the Duwamish people. We pay respect to CRoast Salish Elders past and present and extend that respect to their descendants and to all Indigenous people. To acknowledge this land is to recognize its longer history and our place in that history; it is to recognize these lands and waters and their significance for the peoples who lived and continue to live in this region, whose practices and spiritualties were and are tied to the land and the water, and whose lives continue to enrich and develop in relationship to the land, waters and other inhabitants today.
In a profound letter to the legal community, the justices of the Washington Supreme Court acknowledged the role that courts and judges have played in devaluing Black lives and in perpetuating systemic racial oppression and injustice. As Dean of Seattle University School of Law, I likewise acknowledge that our Law School and the entirety of legal education has been complicit in upholding and perpetuating unjust and racist systems that have disadvantaged and discriminated against our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) law students, colleagues, and members of the legal profession. Through our membership in the WA Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, we take responsibility for our past and pledge to reform our Law School policies and structures (and to advocate for change across the legal academy) in order to create a more equitable, just, and inclusive system of legal education. We can and must do better.
Dean Annette Clark
As members of the Washington Race Equity & Justice Initiative, we acknowledge:
In America, policies, structures, and systems exist that deny individuals and communities of color what is necessary for a full and fair life. Since their inception, these structurally racialized systems have been marked by conscious and unconscious racial bias that pervades our society, to the benefit of white people, and to the disadvantage of Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
These racialized systems work to keep communities of color outside of the Circle of Human Concern and perpetuate harm. Examples of how laws, rules, and norms operate today include disproportionately pulling members of communities of color into the civil, juvenile & criminal justice systems; zoning and forcing communities into substandard and unaffordable housing; denying adequate health care, education, and jobs; seizing familial and community land and wealth; threatening personal and physical safety; and isolating communities of color from social, economic and political power.
Bias and structural oppression based on factors such as gender or gender identity, immigration status or nationality, age, disability, religion, poverty and social class, sexual orientation, membership in an Indigenous (native) group or ethnicity are harmful to individuals, communities, and the notion of a just society. Further, the damaging effects of oppression are multiplied when race intersects with these other identity factors.
The effects of bias and structural racialization are especially damaging to the social fabric of our democracy when they are woven into the law, legal profession, and justice system, where they can weaken the ability of these systems to safeguard equity & justice under the rule of law.
Progress toward equity & justice has largely come from the wisdom and courage of people from communities most harmed by bias and systemic oppression. Thus, race equity work must be pursued in direct solidarity with, and guidance from Black, Indigenous, and communities of color and community-based movements.
True justice cannot be achieved until the legal and justice systems, and all who work in these systems are conscious of and able to counter the impact of racialized systems, racialized structures, and bias. Doing so requires acknowledging that different groups are situated differently and that targeted, intentional approaches are needed to reach just and equitable outcomes.
Structurally racialized systems take their most direct and immediate toll on communities of color. They are also damaging to white people, as white privilege is understood, whether7consciously or not, to be unearned and gained through the stolen humanity of others. This means that white people and Black, Indigenous, and people of color have very different, as well as common work to do to expose and dismantle racialized systems.
As members of the Washington Race Equity & Justice Initiative, we commit to:
Work together with, take guidance from, be part of, and hold ourselves accountable to community-based movements in communities most affected by structural racialization and structurally racialized systems.
Change structures, policies, processes, and practices in the law, legal profession, and justice system that allow harm and disparate outcomes for Black, Indigenous, and communities of color to continue unabated.
Promote and support legal and policy reforms that advance race equity & racial justice, recognizing that differently situated groups may require different strategies to achieve more equitable outcomes.
Continuously examine whether we and the organizations we work with operate in ways that align with the race equity and justice values and goals we support. This commitment includes ensuring that race equity is reflected in policies and practices for recruitment and hiring, work acceptance, priority-setting, governance, organizational culture, communications, and community partnerships and accountability, particularly with low-income Black, Indigenous and communities of color.
Continually explore how race and poverty intersect to make worse the impacts of racial discrimination.
Expand and strengthen the REJI alliance to include diverse partnerships and the sharing of our resources with anyone who is committed to dismantling structurally racialized systems.
Ensure our organizations invest in active, ongoing learning that will teach us to see, reveal, and transform structures that create racialized outcomes and push communities of color outside the circle of human concern. This commitment requires that we help members of our organizations and communities to actively and expressly challenge the use of racist language and behaviors, openly listen when we ourselves are challenged, and learn techniques and tools for reducing and eliminating implicit and explicit bias.