Racial justice report finds six inequities 1

Jennifer Jones Austin, the chairwoman of the NYC Racial Justice Commission, held a Zoom meeting on six areas of structural racism that were identified after summer input sessions, one of which was at Borough Hall.

Weeks after a summer input session, the city’s Racial Justice Commission has released a report outlining persistent patterns of inequity experienced by New Yorkers that it would like to address with proposals to revise the Big Apple’s charter.

The NYC Racial Justice Commission, which consists of a temporary committee of 11 people, identified six systemic barriers to power, access and opportunity for minorities based on feedback from virtual sessions, online surveys, conversations with leaders in racial justice work and a variety of other disciplines across the five boroughs, including a session that was held at Borough Hall at the Helen Marshall Atrium in Kew Gardens on Aug. 5.

Inequity in quality services that promote social and emotional well-being; inequity in work, advancement and wealth building; inequity within and across neighborhoods that inhibits thriving individuals, families and communities; marginalization and over-criminalization of [Black, indigenous and people of color] persons and communities; inequity in representation in decision-making; and uneven enforcement and accountability for government and entities were the six patterns that the Oct. 5 report identified.

“Today, with the release of the NYC for Racial Justice [report] from the Racial Justice Commission Staff, New York City is taking a giant step forward in naming and dismantling structural racism,” said Chairwoman Jennifer Jones Austin of the NYC Racial Justice Commission in a statement. “I am enormously grateful to the many residents who shared their personal stories, challenges, and ideas for creating a more equitable New York City. This staff report is based on thousands of minutes of testimony from a diverse array of New Yorkers from every borough. It is also a formal public acknowledgment that many of the laws, policies, and practices that govern our city are rooted in racism that has harmed too many for too long.”

The citywide input sessions included nine in-person and virtual meetings that had 260 attendees, which had 104 individuals who testified about the racial injustice they either faced or witnessed, according to the report. In addition, there were nine issue area panels, conversations with 71 thought leaders and 50 one-on-one interviews with community-based organizations. There were also over 1,100 online submissions of input and 1,950 minutes of testimony and question-and-answer sessions.

“Our job is to listen and to transform the recommendations into structural change,” said Vice Chairman Henry Garrido, who also serves as the executive director of District Council 37, at a Zoom meeting held last week. “Every testimony will be kept in the city record and the highlighted issues will shape what the commission creates as ballot measures.”

Ultimately, the proposals that the commission comes up with cityside will be used as a potential guide to dismantle structural racism nationwide, according to Garrido.

“We have to achieve things on a federal level to make any lasting change,” said Garrido. “This process will be used as an organizing tool and serve as a roadmap to what can be done.”

The commission is still processing the testimonies from the input to come up with proposals to address racial inequities found in public policy, but it has released a timeline for further actions before releasing its suggestions.

Later this month there will be a second public engagement period to allow more communities to testify in front of the RCJ and share their feedback on the interim report through November. Then a final report with proposed ballot measures is expected to be released in December. They are expected to be on the ballot on Election Day 2022.

“The next phase of the process ... is coming up with solutions to address these patterns of inequity,” said Anusha Venkataraman, the executive director of the RCJ.

There won’t be 100 ballot proposals for every idea expressed from the input sessions, but there will be measures that address encompassing racial issues, added Jones Austin at the Zoom meeting.

“It’s not about any one specific idea,” said Jones Austin. “It’s about hearing and listening to New Yorkers, listening to their experiences, their concerns and trying to identify in what they share with us. How does that tie to a structural inequity? How are persons of color prevented, precluded or challenged to have their voices heard in decision-making and what can New Yorkers can do about that?”