Spokane County United Way's Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
We believe that equity is a non-negotiable core value in achieving our mission of improving people’s lives in Spokane County. We acknowledge that racism is a system of oppression that has served to marginalize and dehumanize individuals from varied racial and ethnic identities over the span of U.S history and the region in which we reside. Furthermore, we know that systemic racism creates barriers for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC); upholds all other forms of oppression; and is an injustice to us all. We oppose and condemn all forms of oppression. We are aware that change takes time. Missteps will occur and we will use them as opportunities to learn and grow.
As the President and CEO of Spokane County United Way, I commit to do the work it takes, personally and professionally to be an ally to minoritized communities. I lead with this statement because I cannot ask others to do something, I am not willing to do myself. I ask that every person of privilege work to become an ally of change.
I have built my professional life around strengthening and building communities through a 37-year career with United Way. Through these years I have never felt the way I feel now. I am sad and angry about senseless deaths. The loss of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and so many others should never have happened.
I also recognize that my privilege as a white man allows me to go about my day to day life with little concern about what I can or can’t do or whether someone has reason to fear my presence. This should not be anyone’s experience in our society.
As the leader of Spokane County United Way, it is my fervent belief that racism, sexism, religious intolerance, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, income inequality and all forms of systemic oppression are intolerable and harm us all. This belief has led our entire team on a journey together to change our internal practices and focus on the equity of our policies, and culture. At United Way we continue to fight for greater opportunity for all.
The work United Way does with our community is focused on improving the outcomes for those marginalized by poverty and racism. We create safe homes free of child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence. We provide educational opportunities for our youth so they can succeed in school and in life. We work to prevent homelessness and hunger. None of this work can happen without recognizing the inequities that exist in our systems. In order to create long-term change, we recognize the need to change our systems. Therefore, United Way offers a community resource, Excelerate Success, whose vision is, “ignite sustainable social and systemic change by leveraging community voice and power to identify and confront opportunity gaps. Through individual and collective transformation, we work to create learning spaces that honor the unique identities and lived experiences of every person.”
Living out this vision, Excelerate Success over the past two years has hosted numerous learning opportunities, trainings, and small group gatherings that invite everyone in attendance to lean into the complexity of equity work. These events are always filled to capacity, indicating the desire people have to learn, unlearn, and confront the personal and systemic barriers that stand in the way of our community’s equity aspirations. I am similarly heartened by the thousands of community members that marched in solidarity at the May 31st rally, demonstrating their commitment to finding ways to confront injustice and work for necessary systemic change.
At United Way we are committed to addressing and calling out injustice everywhere. We will continue to partner with this community to build our collective capacity to eliminate inequities and advance a community where everyone belongs. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
I have an ask for every member of our community. I ask that we stand up together, kneel together, hurt together, and be outraged together and I ask that we come together for equity and justice.
Tim Henkel (he, him, his)
President and CEO
Spokane County United Way