What is being done to support diversity on Mercer Island? | YFS Advice

  • Friday, October 27, 2017 11:12am
  • Opinion

Dear YFS,

We recently moved to Mercer Island from outside the U.S. We love the mild weather and the number of children and families here. We hope to soon have children of our own. But there seems to be very little racial diversity here and we feel this not being white. What is being done to support diversity on Mercer Island?

LH

Dear LH,

Thank you for this question. Although maybe not obvious, the topic of diversity is being discussed in many municipal, school district, business and community circles. Discussions include evidence of the positive economic and social benefits of diverse communities and schools, but not a single answer to this complex issue.

Mercer Island is a majority white community of approximately 23,500: 80 percent caucasian, 18 percent Asian (8 percent Chinese, 3 percent Japanese, 3 percent Korean and Filipino, Vietnamese and “other” Asian), and the remaining includes those who identify as black/African American, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and others. About 3 percent of the total population identifies as racially Hispanic or Latino (2010 Census). Given this community composition, I can understand your concern with Island support for diversity.

I approached the Mercer Island School District and city officials to ask about the steps being taken to ensure racial and ethnic inclusiveness in the areas of policy, boards/commissions and other input mechanisms. Here is some of what is happening:

The Mercer Island School District has an Advisory Committee at each of its six schools. These discuss diversity issues on how the administration, teaching staff and parents can promote a more inclusive and equitable environment. There is also a district Diversity Action Committee focused on equity and access. Staff and administration actively look for ways to include the issue of diversity and equity into academic and social-emotional learning curriculums.

A local parent group, One MI, meets to discuss issues of race, equity and access. This group developed a pamphlet for parents on how to talk to their kids about race and formed advocacy groups to raise awareness of cultural diversity.

The city of Mercer Island prides itself on supporting diversity. The City Council’s annual work plan includes the issue of diversity and equity. Last November they unanimously passed a proclamation reaffirming their principles and values related to inclusiveness which included 10 points to guide city work. Towards this end, city departments developed a Diversity and Inclusion Committee dedicated to issues of race, diversity and equity. Examples put into practice by the city include:

• Development Services Group uses facilitators at some meetings

• Youth and Family Services recruits diverse members to its Community Advisory Board

• Police train officers in cultural humility, prohibit biased-based policing, and officers are prohibited from asking immigration status on police contacts

• Women and minority-owned businesses are intentionally included in solicitations for city contracts

• City’s Emergency Management website links to critical information in various languages

• Police Chief Holmes chairs the Public Trust of King County and the Committee for the WA Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs working to build trust in communities

• Youth and Family Services counselors and the Healthy Youth Initiative Board receive specific training in cultural humility to enhance outreach, orientation and membership

These policies and conversations are important to move us closer to full inclusion and equity. As a community that is majority white and privileged, addressing these issues head-on may not yet be the norm. Ensuring that all Islanders feel welcome and supported will take many more courageous conversations.

At Youth and Family Services, we continue to learn from the diverse families and individuals in the community. We hope to be a partner with you, LH. We have a lot to learn, along with the schools, government, faith, service and sports organizations about embracing diversity and the strengths is lends to any community.

Less than advice this week, I instead offer information, an open hand and my commitment to humbly engaging in further conversation.

Cindy Goodwin is the director of Mercer Island Youth and Family Services. The advice offered by YFS is intended for informational purposes only and to guide you in seeking further resources if needed. The answers to questions are not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, psychological, financial, medical, legal or other professional advice. If you have a question you would like to ask Cindy to answer in this column, or if you need additional professional resources, email miyfs@mercergov.org.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@mi-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.mi-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

[flipp]

More in Opinion

John Schreuder, MD FAAP, Mercer Island Pediatrics
Quarantine reflections from a Mercer Island physician

By John Schreuder, MD FAAP, Mercer Island Pediatrics I miss so many… Continue reading

Update on Mercer Island Reporter changes

Community newspaper continues to provide news during COVID-19 pandemic.

KCLS is stepping up its commitment to patrons

KCLS has expanding its online resources so patrons can continue to learn, build skills, stay entertained and remain mentally and physically active amid the pandemic.

The true meaning of community | Guest editorial

LWTech president Dr. Amy Morrison reflects on how the COVID-19 outbreak has brought the community together.

Deserving respect for being human | Windows and Mirrors

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, Asians and Asian Americans have been targeted. Here’s what’s been happening on the Eastside.

Opinion: Public deserves honest information on sex education

The Washington comprehensive sex education bill passed in the Senate on March 7.

Thank you grocery store clerks

Recognizing the sacrifices of our unsung essential workforce.

Now is the time to be kind to each other | Windows and Mirrors

As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, it is important for us to be there for others in our communities.

City asks residents to do their part | GUEST OPINION

A guest opinion written by Mercer Island’s elected officials.

To our elected officials: Be bold, be consistent, be honest, be helpful

By Patrick Grubb, Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Governor Jay Inslee has been… Continue reading

We need to think before we act | Windows and Mirrors

As coronavirus has led to xenophobia and racism against Asians, we should all stop and think before acting on our biases.