In Discussion is a segment dedicated to offering a space for young people to ask those in places of influence and power, questions of importance and impact.
Taji Chesimet is a vivacious, motivated and self-driven young man, who uses his understanding of self, inside and outside of larger social identities, to navigate his work. Interacting with people across all backgrounds, to address the most complex and uncomfortable issues with a candid, direct approach.
On July 25th of 2017, I sat down with Dante J. James Esq. who is the director of the Office of Equity and Human Rights (OEHR) for the City of Portland. As I interned with him I was able to sit down and discuss issues around equity and the black man.
He began his career in the being a public defender and a hearing officer (administrative law judge). Furthering his perspectives, he worked for the nonprofit sector -- mainly focused in the progression of the black community. He also worked in the political area, more specifically with the Clinton Administration. He has been in-and-out of politics and ran a political training organization getting minority figures to run for public office. He currently works as the head for OEHR where he leads the focus on addressing institutional racism and institutionalized ableism - in the city of Portland.
Equity was a major proprietor in our discussion and defining it came quite positively with Dante. The OEHR’s [working] definition of equity: “Equity is achieved when one's identity cannot predict the outcome.” This along with the idea of susceptible communities receiving policy change and support will bring about the change and vision of the OEHR.
TC: What can policy makers and politicians do to view things in a more equitable lens?
DJ: For me if you want to know what is important to an entity: Follow The Money. Where is money being spent geographically? Where is money being spent? What communities is money being spent in? How are we ensuring we are providing resources to the city bureaus to better do community engagement. What can you do differently? Put an equity lens in your head, so you are always asking about: Who are we impacting? What are those impacts? Are they negative impacts? Are we creating racial disparities in what we do in the outcomes? Equity focuses on outcomes and the unintended outcomes.
TC: What challenges do you think black men face?
DJ: It is just proven that across the board that any social indicator of success: the darker you are the less opportunities you have. The darker you are the less positive outcomes you have. The darker you are the harder it is to get a job. The darker you are the more chance you will get stopped by the police. It is simple as that. The darker you are the more difficult life is?
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