Our community is shifting into an unapologetic anti-racist stance as we come together for peaceful vigils, marches and rallies, and taking a hard look at how County policies can be made more equitable so that they offer all of our residents equal opportunity and protection under the law.
“Equality means treating everybody the same…When you talk about equity, you’re supposed to provide access to everybody, access to conditions and opportunities…based on what they need to succeed,” explained County Director of Human Rights Raul Torres during a recent Board meeting.
The Board directed development of a framework to weigh policies and actions through an “Equity Lens,” with a methodology to assess programs and processes for equity and inclusion, and to identify disparities.
This allows mitigation of burdens that may be placed on people based on factors such as race, gender, age, health and sexual orientation. The Government Alliance on Race and Equity recently launched a regional race and equity initiative, in which our County will participate.
Additionally for the first time, County Executive Chris Martino declared Juneteenth, which commemorates the day the last enslaved people learned of their emancipation, a County holiday. Efforts are also underway to rename County institutions and roads that honor Confederate leadership with no historical context: Supervisor Boddye supported a directive to begin the process of renaming Jefferson Davis Highway, and participated in community meetings that led to the renaming of two County schools. Stonewall Jackson High School will become “Unity Reed” High, and Stonewall Jackson Middle will become “Unity Braxton.”
Our Police Department is an important partner on this path toward reconciliation, as well. After tensions boiled over at protests the last weekend of May, police and protest organizers have worked hand-in-hand to keep an open dialogue as residents of all ages and backgrounds peacefully call for social justice. Already, we have seen the controversial 287g Program end. Next, look for more insight in department policies and records, along with opportunities for continued dialogue around fostering equity, such as a virtual town hall on “Racial Healing & Justice Reform” on July 30, 6:30 to 8:00 pm.
Addressing longstanding inequities in our nation, and our County, will not be easy. But it is long overdue, and we are more than ready for the work at hand.