In October 2016, the City of Oakland launched the Department of Race and Equity. The purpose of this new City of Oakland effort is to help people understand systemic racial disparities and work to change systems in order to make life in Oakland fair and just for everyone.
The Department of Race and Equity in the City of Oakland will intentionally integrate, on a citywide basis, the principle of “fair and just” in all the City does in order to achieve equitable opportunities for all people and communities.
Background and History:
The Department of Race and Equity was created by a city ordinance in 2015. The creation of the Department reflects the city’s recognition and acknowledgment that systemic racial disparities exist and that it is time to provide focus and support for their elimination. The Department is tasked with eliminating systemic inequities caused by past and current decisions, systems of power and privilege, and policies.
What will the Department Focus on?
The Department of Race and Equity will focus on tackling ‘institutional racism.’ This occurs when organizational programs, policies, procedures or practices create inequity along racial lines, usually unintentionally. In Oakland’s not so distant past, housing and employment policies in Oakland, like elsewhere in the U.S., were explicitly racist. The effects of these past institutional policies and practices still influence current public policies or practices, and create race-based inequity across our community. This Department will work to eliminate institutional racism and create a community where equity in opportunity exists for everyone. More simply, equity is realized when one’s identity cannot predict the outcome. In this city, this state and this country, it is clear that one’s identity, certainly one’s race, can absolutely predict the outcome.
Darlene Flynn, Director: Darlene has more than 10 years of experience implementing systemic change work to increase racial equity in city government. She was on the ground level in developing the strategic formation of the Race and Social Justice Initiative in the City of Seattle’s Office for Civil Rights. She has worked extensively with cross-racial teams seeking to bring about institutional and structural change to create racial equity in the City’s communities of color. Her approach incorporates support for change agent leadership development, and the incorporation of racial equity tools and skill building across the organization to sustain the work to eliminate institutional barriers to equity.