The only way our region and its residents will reach their full potential is by dismantling the barriers that create disparities and inequities by race and income. It is essential for our growth and our shared prosperity. The government sector has a constitutional obligation—and statutory powers—to end the segregation of people, power and resources, and demand it of others as well. This means a commitment to not only creating new mechanisms to address disparities, but to changing the institutional systems that perpetuate them through ongoing staff training, equity assessments of any proposed initiatives and investments, and public accountability to progress on goals.
The legacy of individual and systemic racism in metropolitan Chicago continues to have devastating impacts. Black and brown communities are disproportionately harmed by lack of opportunity, exclusionary development and unjust policies. Private and public policies and programs built our divides and therefore bear a responsibility to correct the course. Research has shown that prioritizing equity and inclusion yield greater economic and social benefits for all.
Recommendation: Build knowledge and capacity agency by agency, department by department
All staff—from teachers to police officers to judges to medical personnel—receive implicit bias and individual/systemic racism awareness training and it is also a required component of new staff orientation. The Chicago Department of Public Health has been successful in providing baseline training on understanding structural racism to their staff and partner agencies. CDPH has also invested in dedicated staff through their 2019 budget that will focus on operationalizing equity to advance the work of the health department.
Trained staff should be able to self-select to be part of each agency’s or department’s “Change Team.” These groups receive initial and ongoing training, help develop department level strategies to address issues of equity within the context of their work and lead in-department use of racial equity tools. Attention is paid to Change Teams reflecting a range of positions, race, gender, etc. to ensure the work is embraced throughout the organization. The Cook County Forest Preserve District has established the REDI committee to review the priorities of the department and begin to examine them through a racial equity framework. Four other county agencies have staff who are being trained in racial equity concepts and application of tools as part of the Chicago United for Equity Fellowship.
Recommendation: Use racial equity assessment in decision making
Racial equity assessment tools can be employed immediately to analyze disparate impacts by race and plan accordingly on the front end, such as in proposed budgets, ordinances or other policy changes and in practices such as hiring and contracting. Measurable indicators of success/impact over time can be created for accountability. The City of Seattle and King County, Washington have pioneered the use of racial equity impact assessment (REIA) tools in government to augment decision-making and mitigate harm caused by unintentional bias and structural racism. The City of Seattle’s commitment to equity was formalized by a resolution passed in 2009 that directs all city departments to available tools to assist in the elimination of racial and social disparities across key indicators of success.
Other cities in the United States have already begun to implement policies like those recommended above: Seattle, New York City, New Orleans and Philadelphia all have in place racial equity frameworks from which Chicago can emulate and learn.
100 Day Actions
- Meet with CDPH and Cook County to learn about their work training staff, use of equity tools and partnership with the Government Alliance for Racial Equity (GARE)
- Form a taskforce to study best practices by other cities working to implement an equity framework and draft an ordinance for the city’s commitment to eliminate racial and social disparities through the use of equity tools and mandatory training of all city employees.
First Year Actions and Goals
- Pass a “Chicago Equity & Social Justice Ordinance”
First Term Goals
- All city employees trained in implicit bias and understanding structural racism starting with elected officials
- Establish an Office of Equity and Social Justice and Chief Equity Officer that reports to the Mayor.
Why the time is right
In the last few years there is a heightened conversation around issues of race and equity. Nonprofits, philanthropy, corporations and government agencies have embarked on honest assessments of their position in maintaining systems that hold inequities in place. In Chicago, disproportionate fines and fees in communities of color, black population loss and police/community distrust are all signs of the need to embrace a racial equity framework. A new mayor who advances equity is the right leader to bring this change to city government at a time when equity is at the center of public discourse.
What it will take
Addressing racial inequities will require the cooperation of the Mayor, City Council, City Commissioners and agency heads. Partnership with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity will also be essential. MPC can help with approaching philanthropy to provide the financial supports needed for this partnership and staff trainings.
Alignment with other Initiatives and Priorities of City or Partners