Attend BI training if you really want race equity, inclusion

As members of the Bainbridge Island Race Equity Advisory Committee we advise tjhe City Council on ways to address racism in our policies, programs and legislation. Community members fought hard for the creation of REAC because they saw a community that valued equity and inclusion, yet their experiences proved we could do better. Thanks to their advocacy, today our city government recognizes that racism has been embedded in our laws and institutions, and that acknowledgment, intention and action are required for change.

We, too, believe the community of Bainbridge values inclusion, equity and belonging for all people. We see evidence of that in big and small ways all around us. And we also have work to do. Black, Indigenous and People of Color know that, and if others are paying attention, they know it, too. From questions of “but where are you really from?” to appearances of hate-fueled graffiti, to racist slurs in our teens’ group chats and TikToks: racism, and the opportunity to confront and diminish it, are all around us.

This is not unique to Bainbridge. Our community exists in a country built on racism, and we continue to see inequity across most measures today. We live in a nation where our highest court has overturned affirmative action, where Black communities are still fighting for an equal vote, where school boards are banning the teaching of history, and where the average white family has 10 times the wealth of the average Black family. We live in a time when divisions are deep, and the truth is up for debate.

We may feel pulled to insist “this is not who we are,” to look at local incidents of racism as isolated, or to point our fingers at an individual or an institution. But we are a community. And if we truly want to be a community where racism and hate speech cannot hide in comfort, then we must start by acknowledging that this is part of who we are. What we do next is up to us.

In the days after an investigation was opened into allegations of Bainbridge High School students using the “n” word at a football game against Bremerton High School, the three of us gathered with community members to decide what to do next. We discussed not what the allegations meant for Bainbridge, but what the community’s response would mean. Would we investigate and move on, pretending that our students had never otherwise heard a racial slur from peers? Just talk to them: It’s not. Would we retreat into hushed conversations that support our existing visions of Bainbridge, or were we strong enough to take the opportunity to reach for more?

We think our community is strong enough to reach for more, even if we don’t always know how. With that belief, we encourage you to register and attend the Anti-Racism Bystander Training on May 4 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at City Hall. National trainers from Healing Equity United will provide education and tools for recognizing and confronting racism when and where it happens, and we are thrilled to offer the workshop to our community free of charge.

Racism is a holistic phenomenon, not confined to our laws and institutions, but everywhere – from the inner-personal to the interpersonal, to the structural and systemic. So, while we pursue race equity in our laws, we cannot focus only on the policy level and expect a fair and just community for all. We must do this together. If you share our vision for a Bainbridge that puts in the work to live our values of equity and inclusion, please register at We call especially on community members who find themselves surprised by the possibility of racism or hate speech on Bainbridge. Because we need you.

Renni Bispham (co-chair), Savanna Rovelstad (co-chair), and Caitlin Lombardi serve on the Race Equity Advisory Committee for the city of Bainbridge Island