Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, explains how to take representation and diversity to the next level at #SXSW 2022.Posted by SXSW on Wednesday, March 16, 2022
All of this is informed by the effort to center equity and inclusion in our work. The challenges our country faces — climate change, a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and racial inequity — can only be solved if marginalized communities have a voice, are respected, and are included in solutions.Ok, so in Indigenous communities, pretty much everyone’s an Auntie. Calling someone Auntie is a sign of respect and an acknowledgement that Aunties are there to teach us. We are all part of not only our own Pueblos, Nations, Tribes, or villages, but we are also part of our broader Indigenous family. So, today — you are all my family. And I’m here as Auntie Deb. I’m here to share that knowledge. To go beyond what we know about equity and inclusion and representation. To empower each of you to be your own change-maker. I mentioned earlier that we can’t wait for someone to ask us to step up. We must be unafraid — we must be fierce and often we have to jump feet first into being the first at anything. If we’re lucky, there are times in history when someone from within the power structure truly understands the value of representation. When someone gives of their own power to lift up others who they know deserve to be heard. President Biden — a white man born during the time of Jim Crow, Japanese internment, farmworker exploitation, and forced assimilation — made space for a cabinet that looks like America. Marcia Fudge, a Black woman leading the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Miguel Cardona, a former teacher and the son of Puerto Rican parents leading the Department of Education; Michael Regan, Isabel Guzman, Lloyd Austin, Katherine Tai, Alejandro Mayorkas, and so many more; And to top it all off, Kamala Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, serving as our first woman Vice President. We are the most diverse cabinet in the history of our country. But it’s not just about us sitting in a chair in the Cabinet Room at the White House. It’s about the conversations and solutions that result when people can bring their whole selves — their diverse experiences, perspectives and input — to the table, and where each of us listens and learns from these perspectives. The government is responsible for serving communities that have been marginalized but has rarely benefited from the input and experiences of people who live in those communities. Like many people of color, I come from a community that has dealt with the decisions of an Interior Department and a federal government that didn’t appreciate or respect our history, our culture, or our autonomy. All of that has led to environmental injustice. I know first-hand what it looks like to have a toxic, abandoned mine in my community. I’ve seen families struggle with the health impacts of that, and with the environmental degradation of what detonating dynamite every day for 30 years caused, while the largest open pit uranium mine in the world was made. The company then simply abandoned it when it was no longer cost effective, and it took decades to remedy. There are stories of Black children with lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan because they have contaminated water, and Latino organizers in Southern California who went to school with tissues in their noses, because of nosebleeds from toxic air quality. It’s these stories that make me feel the importance of electing leaders who look more like them, because they will understand better what their communities go through, and they can be the change-makers who take action. That’s why representation matters. It’s not just because of who leadership is, but what they do with the power they wield. For too long, these issues have been brushed aside. The fact that not every community can get up and move every time there is a toxic spill, water treatment failures, or an environmental disaster is too often forgotten. But let me tell you: the time for change is right now.
A $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that includes billions of dollars in investments for Indian Country is finally over the finish line on Capitol Hill.
President Biden has tasked every federal agency to use a lens of equity and inclusion in the work we do. To center the voices of those who have been marginalized or underrepresented. It’s much easier to ground our path toward equity and inclusion if there are leaders at the table who have those experiences. And just as lack of representation has an impact on how effective leadership is — the presence of representation opens the doors of opportunities for others to follow. Not only do young people now see figures from their communities serving at the highest levels of government — the policies and solutions that are developed will break down the barriers that were meant to keep them out. This is why representation matters. This is also why one of my personal goals is to leave the ladder down behind me for more people to climb. And then, when they do climb that ladder, I will lift them up on my shoulders so that they can climb even higher. This is my responsibility because that’s what my ancestors did for me. I challenge everyone here to do the same. That’s the key step to fully realizing equity and inclusion — it doesn’t just stop with us. This process must outlive us.
I hope you can pause and take a moment this month to celebrate the fierce women in your lives.— Secretary Deb Haaland (@SecDebHaaland) March 17, 2022
Happy Women’s History Month, everyone. pic.twitter.com/dSAIymYOEv
So here it is, my South by Southwest family, Auntie Deb’s guide to equity and inclusion: First, for people who come from marginalized communities: don’t be afraid to be the first and don’t wait for someone to ask you. Step on to the stage and don’t worry about failing, because just showing up is part of the work and it moves all of us another step forward. Shirley Chisolm — one of my heroes — was the first Black woman to serve in Congress. What you may not know is that she also ran for President! She broke down barriers so that more women could run and eventually win. Second, use any bit of power you have -— and believe me anyone at any level, every single person here, has power — to make room for diverse voices that can take the lead. I mean, think about the room of people preparing for the Montgomery Bus Boycotts —everyone gathered, everyone had a role, everyone knew what was at stake, and everyone worked together as a team to decide together in the planning, and they executed that mission successfully. It requires a great deal of humility to admit that you don’t know everything and that someone’s lived experiences can be just as valuable as a degree or a resume. But recognizing that will help build more equitable and inclusive solutions. And it will help ensure that more people who look like America are around the table to make the best decisions for America. Lift those people up! Third, learn our country’s full history — it’s each of our obligation to go beyond what school curricula teaches us. Our full history is deep, and it will require us to ask questions that make us uncomfortable but will lead us to better understand people’s lived experiences without judgment. Listen more than you talk. When you see a disparity — the communities fighting for clean drinking water, breathing in toxic fumes, keeping their children safe in the outdoors — stop and think about why that disparity exists. If you can’t figure it out, don’t stop there. Seek out ways to help shine a light on it. Do the work to dig into root causes and build solutions that have empathy. Fourth, be fierce. This is long and hard work that requires passion and determination. Native American fishing rights activist, Billy Frank, fought for 30 years to make sure his people had the right to fish on their ancestral homelands. Your truths and your experiences are valuable – we can all benefit from sharing more of our whole selves. And last, leave the ladder down for more people to climb. Human rights activist Dolores Huerta is still fighting for human rights — 60 years after she started. Even at 92, she’s training the next generation of activists, helping women run for office, lifting people up on her shoulders so they can have a voice in our future. There you have it — tell everyone you know that Auntie Deb says that we all have a role in making sure that equity and inclusion are not just taglines or empty promises. Representation truly does matter. So, step up, stand tall, and be fierce!
Native American, Black, Latina, and Asian American women continue to experience pay inequality and barriers in the workplace. Equal pay isn't just about equal pay for equal work but ensuring that all women have access to roles and resources to reach financial independence. https://t.co/f1OQAgxlUb— Secretary Deb Haaland (@SecDebHaaland) March 15, 2022
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