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Seeing White and Working towards Change

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July 22, 2020

In June and July, the Port’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (OEDI) hosted a podcast club for employees to listen to and discuss Seeing White by Scene on Radio host and producer John Biewen. The club started as a way to deepen Port employees’ understanding and awareness of how racism operates in our country and the generational affects of systemic racism experienced by people of color and white people. Racial equity has become more meaningful and relevant with the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Rayshard Brooks, and Ahmaud Arbery — which are only a recent few in a long history of unjust killings of Black Americans at the hands of police. It’s more important now than ever to understand the complex history of systemic racism in our country so that individuals and institutions, like the Port, learn to undo it. 

Seeing White dissects and analyzes the construction of race in the United States, and by doing so, it contextualizes how systemic racism has been and continues to be codified in our institutions, laws, and day-to-day life. Podcast club participants reflected on what they learned, how this relates to the Black Lives Matter movement, and what they think the Port needs to do to become a more equitable, anti-racist organization.

Here are what some Port employees had to say:

Adrian Down“In the longer term, I think it’s important to recognize that 400 years of trauma can’t be healed overnight. We must end the immediate harms caused by racism and acknowledge that Black lives matter. But to take that idea seriously, that Black lives and Black children and Black joy matter just as much as those for white people, our systems have to be built on that idea. Our educational system, our justice system, our government system, our financial system. That’s big, important work that we need to do as fast as possible, and I still believe with all of our effort and energy it will take a lifetime or more to rebuild the damage that we have done to ourselves and each other.” 
Adrian Down (he/him), Environmental Program Manager

“I’d like the Port to be more transparent about its own history of racism — it exists, bTiffany Sevillaut the stories are difficult to find and uncomfortable for people to recognize. However, hiding the truth makes fixing the problems very difficult. Groups like this podcast club help normalize discussion of race so that folks can feel more comfortable asking questions and challenging the status quo. …We have to cast aside the lens that we have used in schools, government, and businesses which states that white stories are the baseline for truth and every other race’s experience is ‘marginal.’” '
Tiffany Sevilla (she/her), Senior Environmental Management Specialist

Anne porter“Moving forward will require listening with the intent to understand, acknowledging and memorializing the devastating damage, and revising institutions and systems to strongly reinforce and ensure fairness, equal treatment, and inclusion of Black people in new ways. The Port needs to acknowledge the damage done in the past, while continually reviewing and revamping our own systems to address inequities. Continuing to allow space for and to facilitate anti-racist conversations is also helpful.”
 – Anne Porter (she/her), Director of Seaport PMGSean McKee

“Initially I would say that this study group centered on the podcast is a good means to moving [racial justice] forward. I still say that. However, now, after the killing of George Floyd, there is much more awareness and support for righting these wrongs. Let’s take what was learned here and move it throughout the ranks.”
Sean McKee (he/him), Senior Infrastructure Systems Engineer

Derek Edamura“We have a painful history of violence toward Black lives, and the moment we are living in is a direct consequence of the systems that have been created over the past 400 years. What I hope for in this moment is a wave of solidarity across all people for the struggle for Black lives. What we see in these killings, in the deaths of COVID-19, and in the inequities throughout the world is that we have not only have to stand together but we have to care about one another. We wear the face mask not only to protect ourselves, but to protect everyone around us and the people that they care about.  We care about Black lives because we understand that everyone deserves the chance to reach the full potential of their life.  At the Port, we have the opportunity to envision an organization that truly cares about all the people that it touches and treats them with dignity, respect, and care that we all deserve.”
Derek Edamura (he/him), Video Content Specialist  

Employee programs like this podcast club are one of the many tactics identified in the Port’s Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion strategic plan. This type of opportunity builds community among employees, deepens employees’ analysis and understanding of oppression, and normalizes a culture at the Port that centers racial equity in our conversations and day-to-day work. 

Structural racism has existed in our country from its founding, and undoing it is a critical endeavor that requires commitment and perseverance. We recognize that taking steps to change our culture, strengthen our community, and acknowledge the harm created by systemic racism is a start. The Port is committed to this work and we are in it for the long haul. 

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