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Equity and Justice: Toward a New Normal in 2022

“…going forward to a new normal. To a more just normal.”
— Governor Jay Inslee

Last month, Governor Inslee invited Washington state agency employees to join him in taking action toward a new normal: Making “Washington a place where everyone has a great shot to thrive and be well-served by state government.”

Three figures representing a diverse workforce work together.

Achieving a more just Washington requires both:

  • Dismantling existing ‘normal’ laws, systems, structures, and behaviors that systematically serve and privilege some at the expense and erasure of others.
  • Co-creating and building together a new normal — statewide and across state government — that affirms the humanity, dignity, and equal worth of every Washingtonian.

A new normal centers the voices of those who are systematically excluded and institutionally oppressed. It prioritizes them in the distribution of resources, and produces real solutions determined with their partnership.

Between May-December 2021, thousands of people in Washington communities and agencies told us where they think we are as a state today and what is needed to become more equitable, racially just, and accessible. When we asked them what this future will look like, they said:

Word clouds of top community and agency responses, listed below.

Community survey results:

  • Anti-racist state (611)
  • Increased opportunities (363)
  • Full access (359)
  • Employment opportunities (103)
  • Quality education (325)
  • Increased health care (263)
  • Affordable housing (164)
  • Law system reform (99)

Agency survey results:

  • Diverse workforce (107)
  • Diverse leadership (92)
  • Increased agency culture (59)
  • Transformed systems (56)
  • Employee support (46)
  • Increased opportunities (17)

These responses describe a Washington where everyone belongs: our workforce, the communities we serve, and the next seven generations and beyond. This collective wisdom will become the state’s five-year equity strategic plan, detailing how Washington will build a just and equitable future in which all Washingtonians have their foundational needs met and full access to the resources, power, and opportunities they need to thrive and achieve their full potential.

Can you see it? Will you be it? Will you help build it and live it?

Karen A. Johnson, PhD, Director, Washington State Office of Equity

Dr. Karen A. Johnson (she/her/Beloved), who goes by Dr. J, is the inaugural Director for the Washington State Office of Equity. The Office was established in April 2020 to promote equitable access to opportunities, power, and resources that reduce disparities and improve outcomes across state government. She holds a bachelor’s degree in occupational therapy, a master’s in public administration, and doctorate in Urban Services. She is also a member of the 2018 Leadership Women America cohort. Dr. J says, “I will work toward equity and justice for all… until justice rolls down as waters.”



We deliver high quality, cost effective support services to state government. DES features expertise in statewide contracting, training, printing & mail operations, human resources and financial systems, facilities management, and care of the state capitol grounds and buildings.

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