OP-ED: Why I Support Brooks’ Race & Equity Proposal

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The City of Oakland has many reasons to be a leader on racial justice and social equity.

In order to ensure that Oakland makes improvements that are lasting and comprehensive for its diverse populations, we should create a structure for durable change.

Oakland has been designated the most diverse city in America according to Priceonomics and has been historically the epicenter of movements for justice.

Yet, the continuing disparities — in unemployment, city contracting, criminal justice enforcement, health, and more, create substantial gaps between the lives of people in Oakland based on race.

The gap in household income is real; white household income is more than double that of African Americans.

White household income in 2012 was $81,159. African American household income in 2012 was $35,050. Asian American household income was $45,238. Latino household income was $44,455.

These disparities in Oakland need attention and cannot be resolved through the work of short-term consultants, but require ongoing leadership roles within city government to serve as a central hub for the establishment of problem-solving, and ensuring solutions are implemented.

There are important reasons for developing a Department of Race & Equity, including the following:

First, in the past City Council has authorized actions that have not been implemented. Authorizations made by City Council should not be ignored. We need to make sure that the administration follows through to ensure that the city is actively moving towards justice.

Years ago, we fought for a disparity study to examine the contracting practices of the City of Oakland, and the City Council authorized and funded this action. Still, it has not been completed.

The last disparity study that was conducted was 7 years ago. It discovered that Oakland’s contracts were almost entirely going to businesses owned by white men, and in fact, were going to only a hand-full of businesses.

A follow-up study was supposed to be conducted but none have been done.

Secondly, the disparity in unemployment throughout the City of Oakland continues to be incredibly wide. In fact, if we look at the national data the gap between white unemployment and Black unemployment is similar to that of 1950.

Third, the issues regarding contract advertisement, contract-bidding, and contract awards, further indicate inequity. We’ve had jobs and contract opportunities for which we got very few applicants and when I inquired, we discovered that the ads were run in only one paper, a predominantly white audience based newspaper.

Furthermore, we need to take action in reducing the mass-incarceration of people of color. Locally, it impacts family households, criminalizes and destroys human lives, uses billions of taxpayer dollars ineffectively to profit the prison-industrial-complex.

Leadership is needed to help advance the goals of racial justice and equity, for all Oaklanders of every race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, and gender so that all people are fully respected in our city.

We need to continue the effort to work actively for progress. One step towards this goal is by authorizing and hiring staff so it’s handled in an on-going manner.

We can make a change to become a more equitable Oakland. Therefore, I support Councilmember Brook’s proposal for a Department of Race and Equity.

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