The Los Angeles City Council on Aug. 24 unanimously adopted a framework to address racial inequities within the city, with many council members calling the motion a long-overdue response to racial disparities across the region.
The motion, introduced by Councilmen Mark Ridley-Thomas, 10th District; Curren Price, 9th District; and Marqueece Harris-Dawson, 8th District, calls for a racial equity audit of city programs, policies and practices, as well as the development of a plan that addresses barriers that disproportionately affect the Black community and other underserved communities.
“The legacy of the intentional structuring of opportunity, implementation of racist policies and practices, and assignment of value based solely on skin color and other physical characteristics, has created and continues to perpetuate unfair disadvantages to African Americans and other communities of the diaspora,” the motion read.
Though the Black population comprises 9% of the city’s 4 million residents, Black people represent one-third of those killed by law enforcement, 34% of the population experiencing homelessness and 50% of those who filed for unemployment during the pandemic, the motion read.
Policymakers hope the equity report will help assess gaps in existing city programs and policies and produce real change in areas such as housing stability, meaningful employment opportunities and economic opportunity.
“As leaders of a city as diverse as Los Angeles, it is our responsibility to ensure the equitable distribution of city services and resources. But in order to do that, we must have the tools in place to effectively examine the ways in which we have unwittingly fallen short,” Ridley-Thomas said. “Only when we are clear on our flaws, can we course-correct.”
Within 60 days, staff will present a report to the council on potential barriers the Black population and underserved communities may face when enrolling in city services and programs, and securing procurement and contracting opportunities. Additionally, the report will highlight the sufficiency of institutional resources available to city departments to advance equity and increase investment in underserved communities.
Leading the equity report is the city’s Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, which was created in December 2020 with the goal of reducing bias and injustice throughout the city. The department will work with outside agencies, such as the nonprofit FUSE Corps, to complete the audit.
“We are not going to do this work alone,” the department’s executive director Capri Maddox said. “It won’t just be how the city can do things better. It will lean in on our philanthropic efforts, businesses, universities, neighborhood councils and other leadership groups to think about how we can be intentional about making Los Angeles better for all.”
Maddox, a Fairfax High School graduate, said the goal of the report is to assess barriers for the Black and other underserved communities, such as COVID-19 inequity, the digital divide, food deserts, homelessness and economic stability.
After assessing the gaps, the department will develop a plan to address barriers to economic stability. That plan will include recommendations for improving existing policies and practices, some of which city leaders believe may unintentionally prevent Black residents from entering and advancing within city career ladders. They also will develop strategies for creating opportunities that increase access to career pathway jobs.
“Systemic racism didn’t just happen. It was by design, and we need to be intentional about these solutions,” Maddox said. “Centuries of oppression and biased policies have separated Black communities and Latino communities from their wealth, health and freedom. If this country can create systems of inequity, then it can create a future of inclusion and justice for all – and Los Angeles will show the way.”
The policy comes after Mayor Eric Garcetti earlier this summer signed Executive Directive 27 to establish the Racial Equity Task Force within the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department and formed the Mayors Organized for Reparations and Equity Coalition, which aims to support federal reparations legislation and establish advisory commissions within the city.
Maddox said support from city leaders has been key in ensuring equity efforts throughout the city are successful.
“I can’t thank the council enough for its intentional efforts to be sure that a rising tide lifts all boats,” she said. “Some people don’t start this race at the starting line, so we need to do all we can while we can to raise and lift people up.”
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