Acting on a motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Establishing an Antiracist Los Angeles County Policy Agenda.
“It is incumbent upon those of us who sit in positions of authority to begin dismantling systemic racial bias within the entities for which we are responsible,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “It’s no longer sufficient to support diversity and inclusion initiatives. The County has made great strides toward addressing and eliminating implicit bias; it is time to advance to the next level. The County must move to identify and confront explicit institutional racism to set the national standard and become a leader of antiracist policymaking and program implementation.”
Noting the legacy of slavery continues to disadvantage African Americans, the motion called on the Board to declare that racism is a matter of public health, and to prioritize its elimination from County policies, practices, operations and programs.
The motion also called for making legislative, policy and programmatic changes to prioritize physical and mental health, housing, employment, public safety and justice in an equitable way for African Americans. Finally, it calls for tracking progress by reporting annually on the State of Black Los Angeles County.
The motion comes in the wake of the May 25th killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis that set off nationwide protests against structural racism and discrimination, asymmetrical consolidation of power, and extreme wealth and income inequity – all of which disproportionately disadvantage Black people.
The motion drew widespread support, including from:
Curley L. Bonds, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Clinical Operations, Department of Mental Health, Los Angeles County
“Healthcare disparities research has demonstrated time and time again that racism is lethal for Black people. For too long our society has failed to ensure equal access to life-saving prevention and treatment resources for all individuals regardless of creed or skin color. The formal recognition of this and a plan to address it is long overdue. I applaud the Supervisor for sponsoring this motion and I fully support it.”
Ricardo D. Garcia, Public Defender, Los Angeles County:
“Systemic racism is a national crisis, and the reality public defenders fight against every day as we listen to and learn from our clients who suffer the fear and pain of racism. I support this motion because it sets a high bar: an aspirational vision of Los Angeles committed to eliminating racism and bias in our county, ending racial stigma, implicit bias, and inequity for Black Angelinos and ultimately for all people of color in Los Angeles”.
Lisa Garrett, Director of Personnel, Los Angeles County:
“As leaders in government, we have an obligation to positively impact the lives of African Americans and other underserved communities in our jurisdiction. More importantly we aim to set an example for the rest of the nation to follow. Today’s bold motion will further advance the County’s work in Equity by prioritizing the elimination of racism and bias across our various service areas.”
Christina Ghaly, M.D., Director, Department of Health Services (DHS), Los Angeles County:
“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, scores of DHS staff have come forward not with a focus on their own fatigue, but with a desire to see DHS and the County do more to combat racism, to serve our patients who too often are the lifelong victims of racism, and to improve equity and opportunity among our staff. It’s become clear that the focus on racial equity is necessary but not sufficient. That the disproportionate burden of racism, illness, incarceration, poverty, disease, violence, falls to black lives. On behalf of what I know are thousands of DHS employees who want to be part of this work…and thousands of other County employees within other County departments who I know are equally invested, thank you for the motion and continuing to push our county forward.”
Fernando Guerra, Ph.D., Professor of Political Science and Chicana/o Latina/o Studies and Founding Director of the Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University:
“At this significant moment, the motion by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has the potential to serve as a substantive and symbolic foundation for acknowledging our past and for moving forward. By approving it, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the most powerful local legislative body in the nation, can be an example for other local governments.”
Cheryl Grills, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Loyola Marymount University and past President of The Association of Black Psychologists:
“Racism, in its myriad forms, is a virus that infects all in its wake. For communities of color, we have ample social science evidence that racism diminishes quality of life and contributes to a host of health problems, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, heart disease and diabetes — to name a few. It is therefore incumbent on all sectors of society, including LA County, to eliminate conditions that unfairly advantage some and unfairly disadvantage others.”
Sachi Hamai, Chief Executive Officer, Los Angeles County:
“This is our opportunity as a County to meaningfully address not only systemic anti-Black racism, but to take our place at the forefront of the anti-racist movement that will define our time. From addressing the devastating impacts of racism on public health to remedying the tragic disparities in housing, education and employment, we are setting out to overcome some of the biggest challenges our County has ever faced. This is a daunting mission we are embarking on, but I know that our County has the heart and determination to get the job done.”
Tyrone C. Howard, Ph.D., Pritzker Family Endowed Chair in Education to Strengthen Children & Families at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Director of the UCLA Black Male Institute:
“The motion put forward by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas places a much-needed focus on the pervasiveness of racism in Los Angeles County. The declaration of antiracism as a public health issue and the establishment of an antiracist policy agenda is long overdue to eradicate systemic inequities needed to achieve racial justice and equity. I enthusiastically support this motion 100%.”
Antonia Jiménez, Director, Department of Social Services, Los Angeles County:
“As the director of the nation’s largest social services agency with a diverse workforce serving a diverse community of over 3.5 million residents with our programs and services, I have witnessed firsthand the benefits and importance of promoting an environment where access, opportunity and upward mobility are available to all irrespective of their background or color of their skin. Today’s board motion is a step in the right direction and establishes the needed framework that will set us on the path towards realizing the goal of ensuring equity for African Americans across all of the systems.”
Capri Maddox, Esq., MPA, Executive Director, Civil and Human Rights Department, City of Los Angeles
“Racism in America has led to increased levels of infant mortality, suicides, heart disease and other health disparities for communities of color, especially the African American community. Therefore, we applaud Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ efforts to right the wrongs of the racism epidemic plaguing our residents. LA County, this is our moment to stand against racism, hate and discrimination in our region because, ultimately, they hurt all of us.”
Manuel Pastor, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology / American Studies & Ethnicity
Turpanjian Chair in Civil Society and Social Change, University of Southern California:
“This is a long overdue recognition of the fact that anti-Black racism harms our public health and our economic potential. Best yet, the motion goes beyond general statements and calls for specific ways in which racial equity can be centered in policies and practices. It also seeks to hold the County accountable through new mandates for data collection and systems evaluation. This is an important next step to ensure a Los Angeles that works for all of us.”
Alberto Retana, President and CEO, Community Coalition
“The inequity and inequality produced by anti-Black racism has long been a public health crisis which has left many Angelenos unprotected and is at the root of disinvestment in our poorest communities of color. That only changes when our elected officials commit to implementing policies, like those introduced by Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’s motion, that ensure racial bias is no longer tolerated in our County’s practices.”
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Mervyn Dymally African American Political & Economic Institute at California State University, Dominguez Hills:
“For the nation’s largest County to first acknowledge that institutional racism exists — and second, offer itself to scrutiny and self-examination — is huge. This is far beyond anything any governmental entity has done in an urban municipality. Los Angeles County will be making a significant move in facing up to its own legislative deficiencies and/or implementation gaps that have failed to help the people they were designed to serve. It will require significant time and resources, which I hope they are prepared to invest, but this is a game changer, a culture shift I can support. I look forward to seeing how this is a long-term play, in terms of developing strategic (and hopefully permanent) solutions in addressing racism.”
Pastor Xavier Thompson, Senior Pastor of the Southern Missionary Baptist Church and a Commissioner on the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission:
“The cancer of racism must boldly be confronted and eliminated from every level of government. The time has come to do so, and we must not abort this moment. This clarion call for action and accountability in the pursuit of justice and liberty for an acknowledged oppressed group of people is desperately needed and cannot be denied. It is with an overflowing heart of joy that I stand in full support of the motion to establish an Antiracist Los Angeles County Policy Agenda.”
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas has fought against racism throughout his 40-year career, beginning with a decade of service as the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater Los Angeles (1981-1991), whose national organization was co-founded by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the past year alone, Supervisor Ridley-Thomas advocated for implementing the recommendations of the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s groundbreaking Ad Hoc Committee on Black People Experiencing Homelessness, which identified racism as the primary driver of homelessness among African Americans. He also convened a coalition of African American leaders to create an Agenda for California: An African American Perspective that was well received by Governor Gavin Newsom, and sponsored the “Undesign the Red Line” interactive traveling exhibit to educate the public about discriminatory housing practices against African Americans.
The Supervisor previously authored motions to create the Los Angeles County Equity Initiative and to enhance the training of Los Angeles County employees to stifle implicit biases and subconscious prejudices that adversely affect public service.
The heads of various Los Angeles County departments recently issued a statement pledging to stand against racism. “We acknowledge that as government leaders, we have an opportunity to change the narrative on the role of government and its relationship to the communities it serves.”
“Collectively, the work of our departments have far-reaching impacts on all aspects of our residents’ lives, particularly in the areas of employment, land use, education, voting, housing, health, arts and museums, infrastructure, justice, veteran services, environmental protections, community services, and ensuring a fair and equitable marketplace,” they added. “We stand against racism in any form, and pledge to use our offices to advance racial and social equity, diversity, and fairness.”