Summary of the Petition:

This petition asks Mayor Walsh to create a Racial Justice and Equity Commission that would guide every city department in setting goals to reduce inequities in their area of work. This would include housing, licensing, transportation, elder services, neighborhood services, human resources, procurement, and the other areas of city life where People of Color face limited opportunities and worse outcomes. There are a number of exciting national and local models from which Boston’s administration can draw, including the Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative and the Boston Public Health Commission’s Racial Justice and Health Equity Initiative. We have diversity in our city, this petition asks to to promote racial equity, as well as shared power and resources.

Text of the petition:

Dear Mayor Walsh,

I write in support of the Boston Racial Justice and Equity Initiative, and ask that you create a Commission that would guide every city department in setting goals to reduce inequities in their area of work. This would include housing, licensing, transportation, elder services, neighborhood services, human resources, procurement, and the other areas of city life where People of Color face limited opportunities and worse outcomes. Other municipalities across the country are moving beyond diversity in hiring and contracting, towards systematically addressing racial inequities. Introducing racial equity planning to Boston departments would build on the experience of these other local governments, as well as Boston agencies that have already implemented significant equity initiatives, such as the Boston Public Health Commission.

Boston is comprised of an increasingly racially diverse population: in 2000 People of Color became the majority in Boston. This diversity is one of our greatest strengths, but solely focusing on this diversity masks the stark racial and ethnic inequities that characterize almost every area of life – from education and housing to development and health. Bostonians face very different opportunities and futures depending on their skin color, language proficiency, country of origin, and neighborhood of residence due to structural and institutional racism. “Structural” and “institutional” racism refers to the historical (such as redlining) and current (such as legislative) factors that reinforce racism; these factors work to both create and maintain inequities. These forms of systemic racism are embedded in our city’s policies and programs and work to the benefit of White people and the determent of People of Color.

There are a number of exciting national and local models from which Boston’s administration can draw. The Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative, launched in 2009 under Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle City Council, requires every city department to apply a racial equity impact analysis to its work in the community. Furthermore, this model creates accountability for department heads to report on equity outcomes from their work. The result has been a range of new, intentional policies to reduce inequities in areas such as transportation, job creation, criminal justice, and the city’s contracting and workforce policy. Through this initiative, the city of Seattle has performed targeted outreach helping small businesses compete for contracts more effectively, and it has tripled purchasing dollars to women and minority-owned businesses from $11 million to $34 million.

Locally, the Boston Public Health Commission has launched the Racial Justice and Health Equity Initiative, a comprehensive institutional transformation strategy that includes: professional development focused on health equity and racial justice for all employees, an internal advisory committee working to ensure equity in the organization, explicit goals for racial equity in a number of health outcomes, and integrating equity benchmarks in the organization’s work plan. Further, in 2011 the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, in partnership with several area foundations, began tracking the State of Equity in Metropolitan Boston through a comprehensive report and a series of analysis tools for planning agencies. These local initiatives are an important start on this issue, but insufficient without a citywide campaign.

Many non-governmental community organizations in Boston are also doing substantial and influential racial justice and equity work. Some of these 20 or more organizations include: Greater Four Corner Action Coalition, ELEVATE Boston, the Hispanic Black Gay Coalition, CoLab Boston, the Chinese Progressive Association, Black and Pink, The City School, Youth Against Mass Incarceration, Alternatives for Community and the Environment, City Life/Vida Urbana, and Boston Mobilization. I believe that a Boston Racial Justice and Equity Commission will provide a formalized framework to synergize the efforts of these organizations, as well as to integrate them into city infrastructure.

It is crucial that the City of Boston’s commitment to racial equity be framed clearly and with conviction. I’m excited to hear of the city’s commitment to diversity in hiring, but as stated by Race Forward’s Rinku Sen, diversity equals variety, and it is not enough to “mix it up you have to fix it up!” We have diversity in our city; our collective charge is to promote racial equity, as well as shared power and resources.

I look forward to hearing your response,

[Your signature here.]

 

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