On July 21, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors made clear that inaction is no longer an option. They unanimously approved a motion introduced by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas to establish an antiracist policy agenda for the County. The motion calls for the County to confront and address explicit institutional racism by evaluating how County policies, practices, operations and programs are holding back the advancement of Black Angelenos. At last Tuesday’s board meeting, leaders representing various County departments also expressed their support for the motion and pledged to advance racial and social equity within their own departments.
Representing only nine percent of the County’s population, African Americans account for 30 percent of the County jail population (Measure of America: Portrait of LA County) and 34 percent of the homeless population (Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority Homeless County, 2019). These statistics are a result of an accumulation of disadvantages starting in childhood. According to Beyond the Schoolhouse, a report from the Center for the Transformation of Schools, “the majority of Black students in L.A. County are enrolled in racially isolated (e.g., predominantly Black and Latinx students) schools located in impoverished communities […] and with limited resources.” It is not just where students go to school, but also the social and economic conditions where they live, that have a profound effect on what happens to them as adults.
Our nation and County leaders have recognized that this can no longer be our reality, where the color of your skin determines where you live, where you go to school, and if you can achieve the American dream. Prior to this motion, the County had already taken steps to address implicit bias within county departments, but this antiracist policy agenda takes the work to the next level. Specifically, the motion calls for the:
- development of a strategic plan and establishment of a unit committed to implementing the goals and actions identified by the plan;
- assessment of existing policies, processes and practices to sustain departmental equity commitments and promote the advancement of African Americans within County departmental career ladders; and
- publication of the annual State of Black Los Angeles County to track outcomes and progress and the use of departmental data to inform strategies.
These actions will not only break down barriers for African Americans, but also for all people of color living in Los Angeles County. We applaud Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for introducing the motion and for making the County a leader in antiracist policy making.