People of SU / Society / Justice and Law

Seattle U in the News: The Most Socially Equitable Cities in the U.S.

July 30, 2021

What is a socially equitable city? Seattle U's Rashmi Chordiya, PhD, says, "Socially conscious cities and communities are adept and agile in progressing towards disrupting and dismantling oppressive systems while re-designing, rebuilding, and re-aligning systems to be firmly rooted in anti-racist, socially just, liberatory practices that lift-up and center the most vulnerable communities."

Dr. Chordiya, assistant professor of public affairs, was interviewed for a story by The Ascent, a newsletter published by The Motley Fool. The story lists the 10 most socially equitable cities in the U.S. (Seattle is #2, behind San Francisco but ahead of Portland at #4.)

“For the past decade, social equity has been in the spotlight. Black Lives Matter, Me Too, strong pushes for environmental protection and other movements geared toward advancing equity are in the news almost daily,” notes The Ascent. “Some cities, however, are doing better than others when it comes to promoting social equity. The Ascent wanted to find out which cities are walking the walk when it comes to socially responsible values. So, we looked at 13 data points in six categories to find out.”

Following are additional comments by Dr. Chordiya and a narrative of the story. The full article is available here

"A socially conscious city," Chordiya continues, "operationalizes and integrates values of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) within its policies, programs, practices, and processes. It does not separate climate justice from social justice. Instead of using the dominant, binary way of thinking in an either/or way (e.g., good and bad), socially conscious cities and communities dare to take a bold, complex both/and approach to creative and collaborative problem solving and conflict transformation."

Is it realistic to expect a perfect score from any city? Probably not. Even if we did have cities with perfect scores, they wouldn’t be paragons of social equity. The ways that researchers capture things like racial equality and food access are imperfect. Still, if you live in one of these cities, you’ll probably find some truth in their scores.

However, we can take steps in the right direction.

According to Dr. Chordiya, "To transform our cities into socially conscious ones, we need to care enough to commit to transform "our"-selves. It means to unlearn oppressive practices rooted in domination or power over others, and to learn and practice behaviors and investments rooted in solidarity and accountability towards those who are socially marginalized. It means we stay committed to the inner and collective change process."

Further, she says, "The collective change may begin to happen in small groups of two or three people. This is important to note. We do not need big groups of hundreds of people, two or three people are enough to begin collective change work. This change work must not be done with an attitude of charity, it must be truly in service of freedom and liberation, in service of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI), in service of repair and healing within our cities, and in our communities."

"At its core, social justice work is healing work. In a society where trauma is pervasive, we need to heal first to be helpful."