Contra Costa County supervisors argue that systemic racism is a COVID-19 super-spreader too, and they just approved a new social justice office that will not initially involve taxpayer dollars.
San Francisco already has an Office of Racial Equity. Oakland also has had a Department of Race and Equity since 2016, and similar social justice bodies exist in Seattle, Madison, Wisconsin, and Birmingham, Alabama. The East Bay city of Martinez just created an Anti-Racism & Discrimination and Pro-Inclusion & Equity Task Force known by the not-exactly snappy acronym of ARDPIE, but that work will now extend to other cities in the same county. KPIX reports that on Tuesday, the Contra Costa County board of supervisors unanimously approved an Office of Racial Equity and Social Justice.
"We know all communities have inherent racism. Some exposed, some behind the scenes," supervisor John Gioia said at the meeting, according to NBC Bay Area. "We want to make Contra Costa a more equitable place where we do our part to remove racism that exists in our community.”
How, exactly, would this office do that? Details are not totally clear, as that’s still coming together. Per a Bay City News report, the office “will be crafted over the next six months through a community planning process that will heavily involve the county's communities of color.” But it will not cost taxpayer dollars, or not at first at least, as that report notes the office will be funded with “$250,000 through the philanthropic San Francisco Foundation that will pay for work to assemble the new equity office, separate from county budgets.”
While Contra Costa County has mostly been in the news lately for backsliding into the COVID-19 red tier — and back in July for that Martinez couple who was a bit too mad about a Black Lives Matter mural — the supervisors see this effort as helping to solve the problem of racism instead of creating a distraction. The supervisors declared racism a public health crisis, and called for more free testing sites aimed at communities of color.
Whether these civic efforts really do put a dent in systemic racism, or coronavirus spreading through historically disenfranchised demographics, remains to be seen. But it’s a sign that Contra Costa County has come a long way since that one time ten years ago when they wanted to change the name of Mount Diablo to “Mount Reagan.”