Stepping into the future

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are at the heart of the vision held by the West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community (WLAIC). This vision is one of a community where all people are welcome; all of our neighbors are safe from hate crimes, abuse or harassment; and no person or group is subjected to discrimination, bigotry, or prejudice. The components of DEI are not merely three independent conditions; they are interrelated factors in a grander equation.

If diversity is to be a strength in West Linn, then we need to be inclusive. All individuals in our community need to be included in the conversations on our collective future. Inclusion implies an equal voice at the table. Inclusion is dependent on all individuals having equal access to the tremendous opportunities that life in West Linn has to offer. If people can’t access these opportunities, then they are, by definition excluded, not included. Real inclusion is the essence of equity. It requires the elimination of barriers that prevent some groups of people from fully participating in our community.   

Free school meals can illustrate the concept of equity. West Linn has an excellent school system that offers the promise of quality education to propel our students into meaningful and productive lives as adults. Many people in West Linn don’t think of poverty as a real problem in our community, but for students who experience it, the reality is stark. Hungry children can’t learn. Hunger will keep them from focusing on the classroom opportunities they encounter each day. School meals eliminate this barrier and provide these students with the same opportunity to learn as their peers. This is an example of equity in action – the application of resources to provide all students with an equal opportunity to learn.

This is simply one example of equity, but it illustrates a central concept. The only way to allow all people with an equal opportunity to participate in an activity is to identify and eliminate existing barriers to their participation. As citizens of West Linn we must ask ourselves: What are the barriers our neighbors face that prevent them from fully integrating into our community?

WLAIC must focus on equity if our goals of diversity and inclusion are to be realized. We have a role and a responsibility to look at community issues and activities through an equity lens and identify barriers to community participation. When we find these barriers, we must advocate for their removal. 

Recognizing barriers to equity is not always easy. One of the keys to finding these barriers is building relationships with our community members and engaging with them in productive discussions to understand their perspectives. Understanding comes through honest communication. Through these conversations, we can develop a broader view of where the critical barriers to equity exist.

Our strategic direction this year is to engage with our members and the community-at-large to identify barriers to equity and understand the role WLAIC can play in eliminating these barriers. We believe that WLAIC has been very successful over the past several years in promoting diversity and inclusion in the schools, government, and community. It is this strong base that we will build on as we focus on new ways to make sure all people are welcome in West Linn.

Over the next year, all organizational business will be carried out through the Executive committee. This means no more general meetings where minutes, program planning, and other business logistics are discussed. Our general meetings and associated events will be focused solely on examining West Linn, DEI related issues. These meetings will provide a framework where community members can meet each other and engage in meaningful conversations.

 WLAIC is also working this year to further develop relationships with organizations that share our vision. Stronger alignment with these organizations will provide our members with access to a broader array of activities related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.We hope to see you at our discussions and events this year as we move WLAIC forward and work for a more inclusive community.

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