The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion Tuesday to have staff members draft a “Racial Equity Audit” of the city’s programs, policies and practices to determine whether systemic barriers block Black Angelenos and other underserved communities from accessing benefits and opportunities.
Councilmen Mark Ridley-Thomas, Curren Price and Marqueece Harris-Dawson introduced the motion on June 18 and it was seconded by Councilwoman Nithya Raman. It notes that Black people, who account for 9% of the city’s population, represent:
— a third of those who are injured or killed by law enforcement, according to a 2018 report by the California Department of Justice;
— 34% of the population experiencing homelessness as of 2019; and
— half of those who filed for unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting them at risk of long-term unemployment, according a 2020 report by the California Policy Lab.
Ridley-Thomas said before Tuesday’s vote that he believes the motion will be “the blueprint for establishing anti-racist Los Angeles policy framework.”
The motion, which passed 14-0, directed the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department to produce the audit and provide the report to the City Council within 60 days.
The report would include findings on potential barriers the communities may face to enroll in and access city services and programs and secure procurement and contracting opportunities; and the sufficiency of institutional resources that city departments, agencies and commissions have to effectively advance equity and increase investments in underserved communities.
In an effort to ensure transparency and accountability, the motion also instructed the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, in coordination with the mayor’s office, to create a “Racial Equity Hub” or other online platform that would make data and findings from any audit, as well as data collected by the Racial Equity Task Force, publicly available.
Ridley-Thomas said it was city officials’ responsibility, “as leaders of a city that claims to have as its premier asset the issue of diversity,” to ensure that city departments equitably distribute services and resources, move beyond implicit bias and recognize manifestations of racial intolerance and institutional racism.
“But in order to come to grips with this — we speak the language of racial reckoning, we speak the language of equity — but we have work to do and we must have the tools in place to effectively examine the ways in which we have … unwittingly fallen short in our efforts to prevent the very things that we say we oppose,” he said.
The motion also instructed the department develop a plan to address barriers to economic stability among African Americans. That plan will include:
— recommendations for improving existing policies, processes and practices that may prevent Black Angelenos from entering and advancing city departmental career ladders; and
— recommendations for strategies that would develop and enhance culturally tailored opportunities to increase Black Angelenos’ access to career pathways, encourage entrepreneurship and promote small business growth across the city.
Finally, the motion instructed the city attorney to draft an ordinance to strengthen the mayor’s “Racial Equity in City Government” executive directive by:
— establishing a Racial Equity Task Force within the Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department to collect and assess data and present the findings to the City Council;
— require all city department general managers to submit racial equity plans and identify at least one goal each year to strengthen the department’s capacity for cultural competency and vigilance to reduce racial stigma, inequality and implicit bias; and
— require all city department general managers to designate a racial equity officer, who will create annual work plans that are made available publicly.
“The legacy of intentional structuring of opportunity, implementation of racist policies and practices, and assignment of value based solely on skin color and other physical characteristics has created and continues to perpetuate unfair disadvantages to African Americans and other communities of the diaspora,” the motion stated.
“As a result, African Americans have systematically experienced unequal access to the foundational aspects of this nation that are universally envisioned as essential to building strong individuals, families and communities.”
Councilman Gil Cedillo added before Tuesday’s vote that he hopes the city will also focus in the audit on how policies and departments service undocumented immigrants with children who are citizens.
“In a city where 50% of its population is Latino … many if not most of those households have mixed legal status. Some come as undocumented, some have status as legal permanent residents and some are born here and have status as citizens. Nevertheless, their children deserve the same support of all children of the city,” Cedillo said.