The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to create an Office of Racial Equity, which will be tasked with examining economic disparities among groups of Angelenos and advising the council on possible solutions.
Councilmen Herb Wesson, Marqueece Harris-Dawson and Mitch O’Farrell came up with the idea to create the office and a Racial Equity Advisory Committee.
“When this government was created it was not created to benefit people who looked like me,” Wesson said. “I am proud that in one of my final acts as the first black council president, we as a council acknowledge the city’s role of structural and institutional racism and its role in righting those wrongs with an Office of Racial Equity that looks out for all Angelenos.”
Harris-Dawson said: “We see inequity all the time, it comes to us … we see testimony about it all the time. It was Council President Wesson that said, `We need to have a family meeting and talk about this.”’
The City Council voted unanimously, 14-0, to create the office, which will be in charge of monitoring data through a “racial equity impact tool,” creating ideas for civic engagement, examining government policies that could affect certain groups, and providing a report on inequities throughout the city.
O’Farrell said the office will “serve as a constant reminder that we have work to do to make Los Angeles a welcoming, equal city for everyone, no matter who you are or where you’re from.”
According to the motion, black Angelenos have the lowest average income in the city, at $32,225. American Indians face the highest percentage of mortgage applications declined, at a rate of 27.3%. And 41% of the city’s black transgender people reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives.
Latino residents were reported to be the largest group living near areas of the city where exposure to toxic chemicals is the highest.
City departments and offices are in the midst of adopting their own policies to address racial inequities, according to the motion, but there is no central oversight office to coordinate those efforts.
“The racial inequities that exist in Los Angeles are not accidental — they are the result of various historic, systemic and socioeconomic factors, including biased and discriminatory government decisions, policies and practices,” according to the motion.
Wesson led EmbRACE LA dinners throughout the city that are intended to continue discussions on racial issues.