About Racial Equity
A history of racism in our country has led to current day disparities in education and job attainment, housing, and many quality of life indicators for people of color. Racial inequity today is not just overtly racist talk or action. It has become ingrained and institutionalized in policies and practices, even those we believe to be race neutral. To address these issues, 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.
Efforts to Date and Next Steps
As part of its annual Council Retreat in January 2017, the City Council invited a speaker from the National League of Cities to present and facilitate a dialogue about racial equity and the ways in which the Council could be more proactive in identifying and addressing racism and inequity in our community. Soon after the retreat, the Council took formal action and adopted a Resolution “Committing the City Council to Systematically and Deliberately Apply a Racial Equity Lens in Decision-Making.” It also began including a “Racial Equity Impact Statement” on all agenda items that came before them for discussion and Council action (for more information on this statement, see the appropriate heading on this page). Previously, agenda items included environmental and fiscal impact statements, but nothing to ensure that they were deliberately considering the potential impacts of our decisions on racial equity.
Later in 2017, the City became members of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) and sent all Councilmembers along with 15 senior staff to attend a day-long training hosted by GARE on racial equity. And in June 2018, the City joined hundreds of other organizations and signed onto the Racial Equity Here commitment to further demonstrate its commitment to improving racial equity and advancing opportunity for all. At the City’s behest, several other community partners signed on as well.
This was just the beginning of an ongoing initiative.
The Council has since included language in its adopted Council Priorities that we believe will take the City’s efforts to the next level. In fact, the Council’s 2019 Retreat was facilitated by consultants who are racial equity professionals. Among other things, Councilmembers plan to work on developing and formalizing startegies to address racial equity issues, including how we organize, institutionalize, and operationalize the racial equity framework; offer racial equity training to members of Council-appointed committees and other residents; explore developing a task force on racial equity; and conduct a racial equity survey of City staff.
In early 2019, the City contracted with Annie Mozer, a trained facilitator with SEED (Seeking Equity and Educational Diversity) and executive director of the local non-profit group What’s My Bias, Inc., to conduct a series of workshops for members of City committees and other residents. A follow up report from the first series is available here.
The City worked with a representative of the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity and Leadership (REAL) Division to develop a draft “Road Map” that outlines some of the higher level things the City has done and hopes to do moving forward.
An Ongoing Process
None of this is straightforward or easy. The process is complex and will require trial-and-error, evaluation, understanding of nuances, and lots of dialogue in order to even approach “getting it right.” As stated in the Government Alliance on Race and Equity toolkit guide, it is only through “the implementation and the experience of learning” that Councilmembers, staff, and members of the community will gain experience with how we can best apply a racial equity lens to decision making. It will take time, resources, education, awareness, and training.
The City Council fully acknowledges that we have a long ways to go and look forward to further conversations and community engagement as we work towards developing an approach and process that meets our objectives and works for all.
Project Contact Info
Deputy City Manager
The Racial Equity Impact Statement (new name as of July 2018: Racial Equity Considerations)
In 2017, the Council began including a “Racial Equity Impact Statement” on every agenda item. The purpose of the statement was to call attention to and raise the issue of racial equity so the Council ensures it is always considered, along with other considerations such as the fiscal and environmental impacts, when making formal decisions.
The statement is one part of an overall initiative by the City to address institutionalized racism. Additional efforts have or will include racial equity workshops and trainings for City officials, staff and residents, and proactively revising policies and programs so that they are more equitable. Since adopting a racial equity initiative, the Council has been deliberate in how it considers potential racial equity impacts when developing priorities and working on the budget, and will continue to build on this focus in future discussions.
How is it developed?
As with the fiscal and environmental impact statements, City staff develop the initial racial equity statements to the best of their ability during the process of creating agenda item memos. They make use of data available from the Census, Urban Institute or other similar organizations, and information collected from City events, programs, and surveys when available. When the agenda item memo is posted prior to a City Council meeting, members of the City Council and the community have opportunities to review the racial equity statement and are encouraged to contribute their thoughts to add to these important conversations.
We have learned through our direct involvement in various organizations focused on addressing racial equity (such as the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, Race Forward and the Center for Social Inclusion, and the National League of Cities Race, Equity and Leadership division) that most local governments working on racial equity face a variety of challenges. These include major limitations to existing data on race that can make it difficult to develop purely data-driven statements. Time, budgetary and staffing constraints can also be limitations on the depth of analysis possible.
When possible, Takoma Park endeavors to make data-driven decisions. Given the data limitations, when data are not available, the statement may reflect questions for the Council to consider as we work toward the goal of advancing racial equity in decisions. If it seems an item may not likely have an impact (for example, if it is an informational item like a quarterly report) or staff is not sure of the impact, then a statement instead might state, “We are unable to determine whether any group would be disproportionately impacted in a positive or negative way by this action.”
Starting in July 2018, the racial equity statement will be renamed: Racial Equity Considerations. We also plan to change “statement” to “considerations” for the sections pertaining to environmental and fiscal impacts.
We believe this change will help clarify the work and the intent of the information. Instead of suggesting that the City has the data necessary to determine impacts or has completed a lengthy data-driven analysis and determined what the racial equity impacts are likely to be, this will enable us to ask questions about potential impacts that will spur dialogue among Councilmembers and residents rather than presenting a definitive “statement.”
Project Info & Timeline
The Racial Equity initiative is ongoing. This project page will be updated as specific milestones or events occur.
Links & Notes
- NLC REAL webinar about developing racial equity road maps, featuring the City of Takoma Park
- Council Resolution establishing the Racial Equity framework
- March 2017 Council blog introducing the Racial Equity framework
- July 2018 Blog regarding lessons learned to date and next steps
- “Making a Statement: Takoma Park, MD is Making Decisions Through a Racial Equity Lens” (blog featured on GARE website)
- National League of Cities: Takoma Park City Profile on Racial Equity
- Mayor Kate Stewart Appointed to Serve on National League of Cities’ Race, Equity, and Leadership Council
- Racial Inequities in Takoma Park, a profile compiled by the Urban Institute.
- RACE: The Power of an Illusion is a video series on systemic racism.
Video from NLC’s REAL Talk Forum
- Lessons learned from community organizations leading on racial equity from The Aspen Institute.
- Guide for starting conversations on racial equity from the experts at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
- Government Alliance for Race and Equity.
- Racial Equity Resource Guide with articles, research, media strategies and training curricula.