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Orange County Government announces new racial equity plan

DTH File. Chapel Hill council member Hongbin Gu, an advocate of the racial equity plan, pictured during a Bloomberg 2020 "strategy session" at the campaign's Chapel Hill office on Jan. 21, 2020.

Orange County will host a public hearing on Wednesday for community members to share their thoughts on the district's new racial equity plan that will soon be implemented. 

The meeting will take place at 7:15 p.m. on Zoom. The equity plan aims to dismantle racial disparities in the community by uncovering and addressing implicit biases in principal institutions. 

The initiative uses a division of subcommittees to achieve their goals, such as ones for training, accountability and community engagement. Each committee serves a different purpose — from racial equity training of government workers and business partners to data acquisition on local disparities. 

Training and educational topics include the history of race, implicit and explicit bias, institutional and structural racism and how to use and apply racial equity tools.

UNC first-year Ben Neill said he was happy to see a shift in the narrative surrounding power structures, and hopes it will open people's eyes to injustice. 

"If you can't acknowledge a problem, you can't solve it," Neill said. "Once we get past that, we can talk about real solutions."

What stands out the most to Chapel Hill Town Council member Hongbin Gu is the new process that government officials will undergo in meetings and the effort for community outreach. 

Gu said that although she thinks these processes are good, she desires tangible change, as results and quantifiable impact are long overdue. She added that healthcare, education, housing and entrepreneurship have been recognizable issues that officials of the Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Hillsborough communities have been aware of for over 30 years.

"I think the change has come too slow, but the pandemic has forced newfound urgency over this issue," Gu said.

The racial equity plan abides by a framework of all-encompassing questions that include more data and focus on disparities among marginalized groups, meaning decisions are likely to be more representative of the entire population.

The plan's goal is to aid underrepresented groups by helping people become aware of disparities in the area and combat inequalities. It focuses its efforts on elected officials, management/supervisors, non-management, advisory board members, community/business partners and the general public. 

Although this plan was only recently unveiled, it's been under wraps since October of 2019 when lawmakers begin garnering support and filing progress reports to predict the outcome of the new approach.

Job training, community investment and mentoring are measures that Gu hopes to see implemented next. The next step for Orange County is for its Board of County Commissioners to continue to keep track of the impacts of the policy through the submission of progress reports by elected officials and engaged stakeholders and include their commentary in the background of the plan. 

Inclusion of organizations like the Northern Orange Branch of the NAACP, Refugee Support Center, Local Reentry Council, and Orange County Community Remembrance Coalition are vital, as they are better resourced and specialized.

Righteous Keitt, a junior at UNC, said the school has a history of mistreating minorities, and that he supports the plan.

“This is the first step — acknowledging the inequity," Keitt said. "A step that not many governments have been comfortable doing. They don't want to be seen as if they are allowing or working in a system that is flawed.”

@dthcitystate |

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