We need a Cabinet-level Office of Equity

Dear President Biden,

I’m a few days late getting started, but this morning I decided that the thing to give up for Lent is reading any news articles or opinions that are clearly about DJT. It’s time to kick that habit. After so many years of digging into whatever nasty thing he was up to or however he was or wasn’t getting in trouble so I could reasonably intelligently fuss at him in our one-sided daily correspondence, it’s been a hard habit to break. I still feel like a moth drawn to the damn flame and it’s time to stop burning my psyche. I will allow myself to read about ways that you all are undoing damage done by him and his acolytes, but at least until April 3rd I will resist clicking on anything about his taxes, criminal and civil prosecutions of him, how he’s whacking at the hornets’ nest of White rage, whatever.

Phew. I feel better already.

Moving on to other, way more important, things.

My new favorite podcast is “Hear To Slay” with Roxane Gay and Dr. Tressie McMillan-Cottom. The tagline is “the Black feminist podcast of your dreams” and it is so that – it’s awesome. They record new episodes on Tuesdays and so my practice has been to listen to a new one (and usually an old one) on Saturdays when I’m printing. [A side note, Laura’s usually in the next room and can’t really hear what they are talking about, but she loves hearing them laugh, which they usually do frequently.]

Today’s episode is called “Out of Little Africa” with guest Dr. Ebony Hilton who is from Little Africa, South Carolina and an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at the University of Virginia. Dr. Hilton shared a lot of very heavy information about COVID-19 and Black and Hispanic communities pertaining to mortality rates, vaccines, and very scary stuff about what seem to be likely long-term fallout from the disease, going way beyond what we usually hear in the news. There wasn’t a lot of laughter happening in today’s episode.

I strongly recommend you listen to this episode for the above information, but also because Dr. Hilton introduced the idea that you add a Secretary of Equity to your cabinet (hopefully you’re already familiar with Dr. Hilton and this idea). In explaining the reasoning behind this recommendation, she addressed the basic issue that I raised in yesterday’s letter, which is that with our political system and our crazy pendulum swings every four to eight years, the prosocial work done by one administration can be (and usually is) torn asunder by the next one. The idea of a cabinet level Equity Secretary is to give those efforts and priorities more stability, to build up a real infrastructure for systematically evaluating and detecting inequities and correcting them across the entire system (here’s an article about this).

Of course it’s possible that someone could come in and do to an Office of Equity what your predecessor did to the EPA, Interior, Education, HUD, etc. so it obviously wouldn’t be bulletproof. However, it’s hard to fire federal employees, so if there was a reasonably solid career (non-political) workforce it seems like the work could continue even if it’s constrained for a time.

I hope you step up and make this happen. Having someone in charge of such an effort, with lots of staff, lots of resources, and with solid ties to the other cabinet members and their agencies (including equity-focused people assigned to each one) would let us approach this vital, complex, and unfortunately fraught work in organized, thoughtful, and deliberate ways. This is not something to keep piecemealing – too many people have been kept starving for too many things for far too long and we need to get our shit together now.

May we all be safe and equitably free from harm.
May we all be willing to grapple with equity.
May we trust that we’re strong enough to finally right old, old very harsh wrongs.
May we accept this will all take sustained work and resources.

Tracy Simpson

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