The Audacity to Hope Again

While to some people, the Biden presidency may seem like a sequel, his talk about racial equity is already translating into actions not seen beforeIt’s about time that the federal government catches up with the rest of us!  

The Talk:  

Here are President Biden’s words on racial equity from his inaugural speech:  

Folks, this is a time of testing. We face an attack on our democracy and on truth, a raging virus, growing inequity, the sting of systemic racism, a climate in crisis, America’s role in the world.  

We can deliver racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world. We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural vs. urban, conservative vs. liberal. We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts. 

 The Action:   

The President has issued several executive orders that require federal agencies to consider and improve racial equity in all of their programs. He repealed President Trump’s ban on agency diversity training programs, repealed the ban on travel from Muslim countries, issued requirements to make sure that COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed equitablyordered reduced usage of private prisons and ordered agencies to start collecting demographic data for all services. In addition, his stimulus plan includes a number of aspects that will help correct economic disparities, including higher unemployment benefits and low-income tax credits and a higher federal minimum wage.  

We know, however, that it takes more than words or even action at the national level to make real progress. Fortunately, communities around the country have been committed to improving racial equity for years and there are many organizations available to help them, all of which have increased during the past year.

Many national organizations have created programs on racial equity and numerous cohorts of public officials are being trained. The National League of Cities has trained cohorts of public officials through its Racial Equity And Leadership (REAL) program for many years and now the International City/County Management Association is conducting a Leadership Institute on Race, Equity and Inclusion in partnership with the Kettering Foundation and National Civic League.

The League also worked with United Way Worldwide over the past couple of years to create an equity framework, which is now being infused into the work of United Way agencies nationwide. One of our other sister organizations, Grantmakers for Education, has created a racial equity training program as well.

Probably the most active nonprofit organization in training for racial equity is the Government Alliance for Racial Equity (GARE), which has over 200 member cities receiving services to help them improve racial equity. Other nonprofit training groups include the Racial Equity Institute and Race Forward.

GARE and Race Forward are also preeminent sources of information and ideas about racial equity, along with PolicyLink, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Color of Change, Dream Defenders, NAACP, Ford Foundation and, of course, Black Lives Matter. Many of these organizations were undoubtedly among the 4,000+ viewers of the Kellogg Foundation’s National Day of Racial Healing event on January 19th.

This is only a small sample of the many organizations and activities to advance racial equity. A few more efforts are listed on our racial equity resource pagePerhaps with the new support at the national level, local efforts can make a difference. One can not only hope, but ACT! 

It’s great to see so much work in this area, and more sources are listed on our racial equity resource pageIt may be an odd source to quote to use in this context, but “letting a hundred flowers blossom,” as Mao Zedong once said about arts and science, could certainly be used to encourage us all to continue our work to plant the seeds of racial justice in hopes that equity will grow. 

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