Recommitting Ourselves in the Face of Injustice

Dear Friends,

Driving through Civic Center in recent days, I witnessed the aftermath of protests against police brutality. I was profoundly saddened, but also understood. In a society founded on racism and inequity, we are confronting a response that has festered for hundreds of years. Between the pandemic and its accelerated impact on the black community, and the all-too-common murder of black people by those who show no respect or value for the lives of others, the cracks in our system are breaking open with undeniable devastation.

Like so many of you, we are asking ourselves how we can do better. How can we help heal this country and this city? How can we truly create a world in which everyone thrives—no matter the color of their skin? And specific to the Department of the Environment’s work, how can we create an environmental movement that serves and represents the beautiful rainbow of diversity that is America? How do we continue to deepen our commitment to equity and ensure that all San Franciscans reap the benefits of our work?

We have long grounded the Department’s work in racial equity and inclusion. And yet, there is more we can and must do. The Department’s Racial Equity committee, steered by trained and committed colleagues, guides us in much of this work. Together we will ensure that each program we develop undergoes a racial equity assessment to uncover and understand the benefits and burdens of our programs to our communities of color. We commit to designing every program to accelerate benefits and eliminate burdens.

As we lead the development of the City’s next Climate Action Plan, we commit to ensuring that it is shaped by community voices and that recommended actions reflect the most valued and inclusive community benefits. We also commit to understanding inside and out how to deliver on these actions to address longstanding social and environmental injustices.

As public servants, we commit to looking deep within ourselves to scrutinize our own biases and prejudices, guided by City training and educational resources. We will listen more attentively to our own words and those of others. We will become actively anti-racist. We will not be silent in the face of injustice.

Everyone in San Francisco has the right to feel safe—exploring nature, riding their bike, taking public transportation, and just being. To all of our Black colleagues who have poured their souls into this environmental work, we want to acknowledge your anger, sadness and frustration. Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with those seeking justice for the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many other Black lives that have been lost to systemic racism.

We must do better and we will do better.

In solidarity,

Debbie Raphael