City’s new Resilient Boston plan aims to fix racial inequities

July 22, 2017 News

Zeroes in on housing, education, jobs, transit

Boston seeks to confront its past with an ambitious new plan that casts light on persistent and systemic racial inequities. Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration released its “Resilient Boston” plan in Grove Hall last Thursday, the fruit of a nearly two-year information gathering and thinking process. The document explores how decades of policies have created racial gaps in wealth and health, with a particular focus on gaps in access to housing, education, jobs, transit and other stability factors. The thrust of the report is that the city promises to roll out policies and planning with a conscious eye toward not just avoiding the expansion of such gaps, but actively closing them.

“It is not by accident” that inequities cut along racial lines, said Atyia Martin, the city’s chief resilience officer. The report notes a history of racially disparate policies and practices nationally and locally. “Racism is something that was created and is something that can be eradicated by us,” Martin said.

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Boston department of Resilience and Racial Equity:

Rahsaan Hall, director of the Racial Justice Program of the ACLU of Massachusetts, told the Banner in a phone interview that the report’s strengths include intentionally applying a racial equity lens throughout every planning piece and acknowledging the city’s troubled racial history as well as how today’s structural inequities derive from that past.

However, Hall added, some current issues are missing — such as the underrepresentation of children of color in Boston’s exam schools, which has been a topic of interest for the ACLU-MA and other local civil rights groups. He also noted that with most Resilient Boston initiatives still in planning or development stages, it leaves questions on how final implementation will be ensured. Affordable housing is a pressing need right now, and steps that are still in progress may not be sufficiently timely, he said.

“This is a very aspirational document,” Hall said. “There was a lack of clarity on how this document becomes institutionalized and executed at every level of city government and how this is leveraged within the private sector.”

Walsh’s strongest mayoral challenger, City Councilor Tito Jackson, jumped on the report, noting its timeliness in an election year and charging that prior Walsh administration actions belie the professed commitment to equity. Jackson cited the persistent white domination of police and fire ranks, as well as the passage of this year’s school budget over objections by the school committee’s Opportunity and Achievement Gap Task Force.

“For the past three and a half years, Mayor Walsh has shown us he is simply not serious about dealing with issues of racial equity in Boston,” Jackson said in a statement.

The Resilient Boston plan is part of the city’s participation in the worldwide 100 Resilient Cities initiative. It lays out visions, goals and actions to build resilience in Boston by ensuring the most vulnerable residents are better able to cope with climate change and other threats to the wellbeing of the city. Proposals aim to break down social silos across race in Boston and prompt companies and residents to examine their own practices in order to have a cohesive and equitable city. Other focus areas include engaging residents better in local government and improving diversity in city hiring and promotion; increasing access to economic opportunity; and preparing neighborhoods against crises such as climate change and instances of violence.

Read the full article in the Bay State Banner.