Hearing on Racial Equity Achieves Results Act of 2019 (B23-0038)
Committee on Government Operations
Council of the District of Columbia
Testimony of Sarah Novick
Senior Organizer, Jews United for Justice
Thursday, April 25, 2019
Good afternoon Councilmember Todd, Councilmembers, and staff of the Committee on Government Operations. My name is Sarah Novick and I am testifying today on behalf of Jews United for Justice. Our membership includes thousands of Jews and allies across DC who are committed to fighting for social, racial, and economic justice. JUFJ is also a member of the DC Initiative on Racial Equity and Local Government, which advocates for undoing centuries of segregation, discrimination, and structural racism by passing progressive policy solutions to break down barriers rather than perpetuating disparities.
I believe, and most people in our society believe, everyone should have a fair chance in life, a say in democracy, a decent place to live. But in our city, Black and brown people have less wealth, worse schools, and less access to jobs and economic opportunity. They are food insecure and housing insecure at vastly higher rates than white people. We know that the inequities we see today, like the racial wealth gap and the racial educational achievement gap, are not an accident or the fault of struggling individuals. They are the product of intentional as well as unintentional colorblind policy choices going back literally hundreds of years in our city and our country. We stand unified on the principle that no one should face these barriers any more.
Thanks to Councilmember McDuffie for his authorship and Councilmember Todd for co-introducing it, this racial equity bill begins to address these issues by mandating some training, evaluation, and tracking systems in the executive branch. Individual government employees and staff should confront their own inherited biases and existing city programs and agencies should be assessed through a racial equity lens. In order to change the lived reality of Black and brown people and immigrants, we must analyze whether the programs and practices we have in place to support District residents are actually making a difference.
And the bill must become more comprehensive, including the requirement that a racial equity analysis be applied to bills being considered by DC Council. Council would never create a program or a policy and implement it without knowing what it was going to cost. You’ve put in place a careful system of accounting and economic impacts to give us that information. Likewise, when Council tries to address problems that are plaguing specific Black, brown, or immigrant communities, we need to know whether the proposed solutions are really going to solve those problems. You as Councilmembers don’t want to institute policies that further replicate, perpetuate, and deepen existing disparities, so it will be useful to have racial equity impact tool that holds yourselves accountable to achieve the goals you set out to achieve.
As more and more wealthy people move into the District, and working class and poor communities of color struggle, DC has been passing policies and investing in programs to move toward being a place where everyone can thrive and have a voice. But it’s clear we’re not there yet. Undoing structural harms and racism requires not being colorblind; it requires us to look at the problems poor and working class Black, brown, and immigrant communities are experiencing. This bill has the potential to do that. The JUFJ community looks forward to supporting you as you make this bill, as Sabiyha Prince just said, match the force of racial destruction Black and other communities of color have endured.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Sarah Novick is JUFJ’s DC senior organizer.