Background on the Movement for Racial Equity

The movement for racial equity in government started over a decade ago in the West Coast, and since has active legislation and policy initiatives across the country. One of the first places to pass a racial equity legislation was King County, the most populous County in Washington State, passing the Equity and Social Justice ordinance in 2010, which currently the equity office operates with nine full-time staff and a biennial budget of $4 million.

Fairfax County was the first jurisdiction in the DMV to approve a racial equity legislation in 2017 called the One Fairfax initiative, co-sponsored by the County Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D) and Council President Nancy Navarro (D-District 4), which mandates equity considerations into policymaking for the most populous jurisdiction in Virginia of 1.1 million people. Karla Bruce, Fairfax’s Chief Equity Officer, has two policy advisers and a budget of more than $480,000. The office focuses on helping government agencies incorporate equity considerations into decision-making.

In 2015, Fairfax became a paid membership jurisdiction of The Government Alliance on Race and Equity, which is $10,000 annual dues. Montgomery County, MD and Alexandria, VA following that same year.

In 2018, Montgomery County a racial equity resolution. After a years-worth of community forums and public hearings, the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed the Racial Equity and Social Justice Act, and signed into law by the County Executive Marc Elrich (D) in November 2019, which at the time was considered the strongest of its kind, requiring the following:

  • Mandatory racial equity training for more than 8,000 full-time government employees in the County;
  • Every bill considered by the Council is required to include a statement detailing the proposal’s impact on equity among different demographic groups;
  • Establish the Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice with an annual operating budget of $375,860;
  • Every government agency in the County and develop an action plan by September 30th to address racial disparities, which include a poverty rate for Black and Latino residents, which is nearly triple that of white residents;
  • $2,000 annual stipend for each of the 8 members of the public who will be appointed to serve on the Racial Equity and Social Justice Advisory Committee, to promote inclusive by easing the costs for lower-income citizens to participate.

In 2019, a Washington Post article, noted that Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), who introduced the racial equity legislation in DC, sees the biggest challenge as figuring out which [racial equity] measures actually work. Reallocating resources appears to be a key barrier to implementing racial equity policies, especially if they require reallocating resources in order to achieve its purpose. Overcoming this and other barriers should be the intention of next steps in achieving a vision for an anti-racist DC.

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