Published on: Friday, March 10, 2017 City Council & Mayor Blog

Racial Equity in Takoma Park

From Mayor Kate Stewart and Councilmember Jarrett Smith

This January the City Council held its yearly retreat to discuss our priorities and to take a step back from our weekly meetings to look at long term goals for our community. The 2017 Council priorities can be found here.

This year, as part of our retreat meetings, we invited a speaker from the National League of Cities to present and facilitate an open and honest dialogue about racial equity and the way in which we can proactively address issues of racism and inequality in our community.

Prior to and during our retreat, we looked at the history of racism in our country and how this has led to current day disparities in education and job attainment, housing, and many quality of life indicators for people of color. In particular, we examined how racial inequity today is not just overtly racist talk or action but rather racial inequities have come to be ingrained and institutionalized in our policies and practices, even those we believe to be race neutral. And therefore, we must disrupt and unpack seemingly neutral policies and practices to see if they are contributing to inequity.

Specifically, when we discuss racial equity, we mean the development of policies, practices, and investment in the community to reverse racial disparity trends, dismantle institutional racism, and ensure that outcomes and opportunities for all people are no longer determined by race.

We plan to institute methods that have worked in cities around the country to update, eliminate, or create government policies, practices, and programs specifically to dismantle existing racial disparities. Our goal is to commit ourselves to applying a racial equity lens to decisions across government, and thereby continue to build an inclusive, equitable community — and ensure a vibrant and healthy community — for ALL our residents.

As stated by the Government Alliance on Race & Equity “the goal is not to just eliminate the gap between white people and people of color, but to increase the success for all groups. Racial equity develops goals and outcomes that will result in improvements for all groups, but the strategies are targeted based on the needs of a particular group. Systems that are failing communities of color, are actually failing all of us. Targeted universalism will increase our collective success and be cost effective.”

To demonstrate our commitment, we will begin including a “Racial Equity Impact Statement” on all our Council agenda items effective Wednesday, April 5th, 2017.

We want to thank our colleagues and the City staff for embracing and supporting this new approach to our work. We look forward to this first step and working with members of the community as we continue to find ways to adopt a racial equity framework in our city and ensure we are building a strong, inclusive, and healthy community.