LA County Makes Progress on Antiracist Agenda

Responding to Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas’ motion, Establishing an Antiracist Los Angeles County Policy Agenda, the County’s Chief Executive Office announced the search for a Racial Equity Executive Director and launched an Antiracism, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative website so the public can share their ideas for addressing institutional racism in the nation’s most populous county.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas praised these initial steps and stressed the need for urgency. He noted that, in just the brief period since he introduced the motion, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to take a higher toll on people of color and protestors have continued to fill the streets in response to the separate police shootings of Dijon Kizzee and Jacob Blake, and the lack of indictments in Breonna Taylor’s case.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas at the participating in the September 29, 2020 Virtual Board of Supervisors meeting. Photo by Bryan Chan/Board of Supervisors

“People continue to be harmed at alarming rates and so there is no time to waste in getting to the root of serving our constituents fairly and equitably by ensuring that our practices are rooted in antiracism,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said.

On July 21st, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ motion that called for declaring racism a matter of public health, prioritizing the elimination of racism within Los Angeles County, and highlighting the need to examine and eradicate policies and processes that prevent African Americans from advancement.

The motion also directed the CEO and other departments to promote and support policies that would achieve more equitable outcomes for African Americans in the areas of education, housing, mental health, employment, and the criminal justice system.

In giving the Board its first report back on the County’s antiracism efforts, Acting Chief Executive Officer Fesia Davenport gave laid out the essential components and initial framework for developing a strategic plan and policy platform in four phases, to be completed by June 2021

“The Board’s decision to establish an Anti-Racism Initiative marks a galvanizing opportunity for Los Angeles County to confront the institutional racism that can sometimes hide in plain sight, in the form of seemingly benign policies and practices,” she said. “I look forward to helping to lead our County workforce in understanding and addressing these entrenched impacts that, unfortunately, have become part of our County landscape, just as they are in the broader culture. It’s a big job, but I am confident that once we examine our ‘business as usual’ practices, we will be able to find new ways to advance the Board’s compelling vision.”

LA County recently initiated a national search for an Executive Director of Racial Equity who “will establish, support, lead, and manage efforts to identify and eliminate structural and systemic racism in those areas where the County has control or influence, such as County employment, provision of County services, and contracting.” The Executive Director will also be a “visionary leader” who will “champion the elimination of institutional racism while also promoting efforts to deepen the County’s work on diversity and inclusion.”

LA County also launched the Antiracism, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative website to be a platform for outreach and engagement. People can visit the website to provide feedback on the County’s efforts and sign up for upcoming opportunities for stakeholder and community conversations.