REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
2020 DEI Conference
October 27, 2020
Good morning everyone and welcome to the 26th annual statewide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion conference here at the State of Oregon. It’s our first virtual conference, and I’m really excited to learn from all of our incredible speakers.
I want to shout out this year’s co-chairs Antonio Torres and Eric Engelson, and the planning committee for their incredible work organizing this virtual event.
This year will be our Conference Weaver, Anne Mildenberger’s, last year helping with the conference. I would like to thank Anne for all of her time and dedication to leading the conference’s planning efforts over the past 7 years.
Racism and racial disparities impact every part of our culture and our economy. The COVID-19 pandemic and historic wildfires we just experienced has only further exacerbated these disparities.
And, since the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police at the beginning of this summer, Oregonians have called for real progress when it comes to police accountability and racial justice. Earlier this summer, thanks to the leadership of the People of Color Caucus in the Legislature, we passed a series of police accountability measures to take concrete action in Oregon. But we know that there is still much left to be done.
To that end, I have convened a Racial Justice Council to address systemic racism throughout Oregon.
I want to emphasize that the Racial Justice Council is more than a forum for conversation. The council is in the process of providing specific recommendations to inform my 2021-2023 recommended budget and legislative agenda that will center racial equity.
After generations of exclusion and racist policies, we plan to build the state back better than it’s ever been. Racial equity isn’t the icing on the cake for a just society. Instead, it must be considered a crucial part of the recipe of every layer of our systems. Changing our thinking will have concrete outcomes that will shape the future of Oregon for generations to come – and create a future where everyone has the chance to thrive.
The institution of racism won’t be dismantled in one day, but I know we can dismantle it the same way that it was built: brick by brick. That’s why, in Oregon, we’re starting to change the conversation and practices in the rooms where budgets, investments, and policy agendas are created.
With that focus, we will be able to build a safer, stronger, and more resilient Oregon – for everyone.
Over the next few days, I hope that you will take this opportunity to learn more about ways we can better serve the people of Oregon.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for all of us as state employees to continue to learn about equity and inclusive practices.
I was recently inspired to hear about the interagency “Critical Conversations” series organized at DCBS. These facilitated conversations have discussed issues of equity that range from Race in Oregon History to gender identity to inclusive communications.
These conversations are never easy. But that’s the point. We have to embrace the discomfort in order to make progress toward real and concrete change.
And I understand that more than 1500 staff have attended these virtual events, and that they are counted as part of the staff’s formal work hours, which is a true investment in diversity, equity and inclusion capacity building in the agency.
I’ve heard that folks at DCBS are really enjoying the opportunities to engage each other in intentional conversations on these crucial topics, and that the events have sparked more conversations around how to embed the equity lens across all parts of the agency.
Not only are staff feeling heard, seen, and valued, but the success of these events at DCBS has inspired the Department of Financial Regulation to have their own crucial conversations around equity and how to implement DEI, using the DEI lens in everything they do within their division – including succession planning.
The goal of this conference is not to point out our faults or ignorance, but to offer tools so that you can provide better service.
Equity and inclusion are practices, not destinations. We don’t reach total inclusion, we include; we don’t achieve equity, we practice it.
So please, take the information and inspiration that you gather today and apply it to your work, your teams, and your interactions with the communities you serve.
I know I am excited to learn more about how to be actively antiracist as a government official from Dr. Bernabei. And the power of doing what’s right, even if it means standing alone.
These are all incredible sessions, so let’s get started.
Enjoy the conference, and thank you for your dedication and determination to the people of Oregon.