Create a Department of Race and Equity for the City of Oakland

It’s Time to Heal our Divided City 

Oakland is divided into two cities. One is made up of neighborhoods that have seen relatively little public or private investment, where schools and parks are in decline, jobs are evaporating, asthma and cancer rates are high, and basic services like grocery stores and banks are few. These neighborhoods are mostly communities of color. There is also another Oakland, one made up of neighborhoods that have benefited from years of investment. One where the children have access to good schools, clean air and beautiful parks, and residents can buy groceries and run errands in their own neighborhoods. These areas are mostly white.

Right now, an African American child from East Oakland can expect to live 15 years less than a white child from the Oakland Hills, only a few miles away. That’s roughly equivalent to the difference between Iceland and Iraq.

The fundamental role of government is to collect and distribute resources in a way that promotes the health and wellbeing of all residents, not just the privileged few. But despite the good intentions of our elected officials and City staff, we keep getting the same unjust results. We’re not moving toward our goal of uniting our city into One Oakland where all residents have equal access to public services and amenities, and equal treatment by public servants. But we have an opportunity before us to change that, with the creation of a City of Oakland Department of Race and Equity.
We need to integrate a race and equity lens into all of the daily decisions of government that alone seem insignificant, but together add up to a system of inequality. This isn’t a new idea - other cities across the nation have created municipal departments designed to examine the racial and equity impacts of funding decisions, contracting, hiring, and every other policy and practice, with great results. It’s time for Oakland to catch up.

The proposal currently before the Oakland City Council is simple. Establish a Department of Race and Equity. The details of how the Department will operate will come later in the public process, but the overall goal is to create a city that gives all Oaklanders access to the opportunities necessary to satisfy their essential needs, advance their well-being and achieve their full potential.

We need your help to get the City Council to make the right decision. Right now some Councilmembers are hiding behind the need for further development of the proposal - details like staffing and budgets - but the legislation simply asks them to commit to the idea of One Oakland. We are asking our elected representatives to listen to the will of the community and commit to integrating a race and equity lens in every City decision, no matter how small.

The time is now. We are ready to be One Oakland.
 

Letter to Councilmembers:

I am writing today to ask you to support the proposal to create a City of Oakland Department of Race and Equity. Cities like Portland and Seattle have had great success with similar initiatives, and given the incredible racial disparities found in the Oakland community, it is time for us to catch up with national best practices.

Oakland is divided into two cities. One is made up of neighborhoods that have seen relatively little public or private investment, where schools and parks are in decline, jobs are evaporating, asthma and cancer rates are high, and basic services like grocery stores and banks are few. These neighborhoods are mostly communities of color. There is also another Oakland, one made up of neighborhoods that have benefited from years of investment. One where the children have access to good schools, clean air and beautiful parks, and residents can buy groceries and run errands in their own neighborhoods. These areas are mostly white.

Right now, an African American child from East Oakland can expect to live 15 years less than a white child from the Oakland Hills, only a few miles away. That’s roughly equivalent to the difference between Iceland and Iraq.

The fundamental role of government is to collect and distribute resources in a way that promotes the health and wellbeing of all residents, not just the privileged few. But despite the good intentions and sincere efforts of our elected officials and City staff, we keep getting the same unjust results. The impacts of institutional racism are too complex and often invisible to be handled from one bill to the next. We need to integrate a race and equity lens into all of the daily decisions of government that alone seem insignificant, but together add up to a system of inequality.

The proposal currently before you is simple. Establish a Department of Race and Equity. The details of how the Department should operate can come later in the public process, but the overall goal is to create a city that gives all Oaklanders access to the opportunities necessary to satisfy their essential needs, advance their well-being and achieve their full potential. I am asking you as a representative of the people of Oakland to listen to the will of the community and commit to integrating a race and equity lens in every City decision, no matter how small.