Racial Disparities and Our Commitment
In taking a frank assessment of poverty in Franklin County, the Steering Committee identified and prioritized the need to be candid and direct about the historic and current role race and racial inequities play in perpetual poverty. The Steering Committee held thoughtful discussions about public policies that have and continue to impact communities of color in Franklin County. The committee members understand for change to take place, there must be an effort to disrupt the institutional racism and unconscious biases that continue to permeate the community.
The Steering Committee recognizes that facing the challenge of racial inequities in the county will require a sustained effort to engage and change. The committee identified steps and action items in the blueprint to address these issues in individual organizations.
In addition to the goals and action steps, Franklin County has committed to leadership in redressing long-standing racial inequity. The Franklin County Board of Commissioners and local leaders are completing racial inequity training. Franklin County is establishing community partnership with nonprofits and advocates to develop ongoing racial inequity training. Franklin County and members of the Steering Committee will also review policies to identify biases and inequities in their own organizations.
Cities in the beginning of the 20th Century instituted urban planning policies, zoning, regulations, and institutional behaviors that codified structural and systemic racism. From redlining, to zoning rules and lot sizes, to location of services – all of these decisions solidified racial divides and constrained access to opportunities for African Americans to build wealth, grow income, and build neighborhoods. Interstate locations and other major infrastructure projects disrupted, divided, and decimated minority communities. Based on the review of data and conversations with residents and stakeholders from across the community, the Steering Committee believes structural and systemic racism are underlying conditions within the challenges of addressing poverty.
The Steering Committee recognizes that facing the challenge of racial inequities in Franklin County will require a sustained effort to engage and change.
As noted in the Kirwan analysis and other research, in Franklin County, African Americans:
- Experience dramatically higher unemployment rates (Overall: 5.7%, African-Americans: 11.1%),
- Face a higher poverty rate as a community (Overall: 16.7%, African-Americans: 29.9%),
- Experience disproportionately higher incarceration rates (Overall: 223 per 100,000, African-Americans: 637 per 100,000),
- Have lower home ownership rates (Overall: 53.6%, African-Americans: 33.4%), and ¡ Are more likely to live in neighborhoods with low performing schools.
The Steering Committee conducted a thoughtful review of the Kirwan analysis and the stakeholder engagement efforts, where it heard directly from Franklin County residents. Additionally, members of the Steering Committee brought their own knowledge, experience, and struggles with these issues to every convening, articulating how policy and action has driven the current state.
Together the Steering Committee recognized these key issues:
- Institutional racism and systemic inequities are persistent realities.
- It is vital that the community continues to encourage and appreciate public and private champions of social justice where they live, work, and play.
- It is imperative for the county to move from a collection of isolated and disconnected diversity initiatives to regional inclusive, coordinated, purposeful, interdependent, and strategic actions, to make progress.
The Rise Together Blueprint offers an opportunity to take bold steps to alleviate poverty. The Steering Committee is calling for proactive measures to remedy the historic and contemporary effects of racism and segregation that are persistent in poverty.
Members of the Steering Committee want to see the county move forward with the following priorities for the next phase of the work.
- Review personnel policies and organizational structures, and identify where there is bias and inequity in their own organizations. Then, work with county leadership and staff to correct and adjust, as needed.
- Identify and implement robust community-wide discussions and learning opportunities on implicit bias, racial segregation, diversity training, and projects that can help create a community striving towards racial healing.
The Franklin County Board of Commissioners is committed to setting the example for other organizations, leaders, and residents to follow on this journey.