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Friday May 20th

Education, housing, employment outlined as priorities in county racial equity survey

An Orange County sign is pictured on Interstate 40 on Oct. 13, 2021. On Oct. 8, Orange County launched a new Longtime Homeowner Assistance to provide property tax bill assistance to homeowners who have lived in Orange County for over 10 years.
Buy Photos An Orange County sign is pictured on Interstate 40 on Oct. 13, 2021. On Oct. 8, Orange County launched a new Longtime Homeowner Assistance to provide property tax bill assistance to homeowners who have lived in Orange County for over 10 years.

One Orange, a team dedicated to advancing racial equity in Orange County, gained approval to move forward with its updated framework at the Board of County Commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Key updates to the framework include a three-step community engagement process, predictive analytics for the racial equity index and the development of an evaluation plan to help racial equity action plans come to fruition.

“One Orange is a commitment by Orange County leaders and staff to uncover and address implicit racial biases in our institutions to ensure that race can no longer be used to predict life outcomes in our community,” Erica Bryant, director of child support services for Orange County, said.

One Orange is a member of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, a national network of government agencies working to advance racial equity.

“The GARE philosophy is that the systemic issues of race are so embedded that we need to address those in a very focused way,” Orange County Department of Social Services Director Nancy Coston said. 

The framework — first presented to the BOCC last summer — is comprised of five multi-jurisdictional subcommittees: training and organizational capacity, racial equity tool kit, community engagement, racial equity index and evaluation and accountability.

“The multi-jurisdictional committees use information gained during community outreach to validate and inform the framework,” Bryant said. 

The framework was shared in three virtual sessions. Feedback from the sessions helped to inform a targeted outreach survey. The community questionnaire sent out in November and December garnered over 650 responses on racial equity priorities. 

“There were 11 major themes noted,” Bryant said. “And we put those in a survey to determine what three results regarding racial equity would you like to see so that we could get a priority.” 

The top-three results were improved education outcomes for children of color, increased affordable housing options and increased employment opportunities for people of color.

“People of all races struggle, and when you compare outcomes across most indicators, Black and brown people struggle the most,” Bryant said. 

Coston said One Orange is expanding work with Carolina Demography to have its racial equity index data available to the public.

“The index is a piece that takes the different factors and helps you understand which piece will have the most impact instead of just trying to do a lot of different things,” she said. “Having all our data about our various disparities in one place and where we stand as a community has value in and of itself.”

Commissioner Jean Hamilton said she was excited to see One Orange move forward with its framework.

“At every county commissioner meeting, we are also following this and seeing the decisions we make, the procedures we use, even the way we organize these meetings, how does it impact racial equity,” she said. “It’s not just like you’re doing the work and we’re sitting here watching you. We’re a part of it, so thank you."

Bryant said it is important to note that racial equity is both an outcome and a process.

“As an outcome, we achieve racial equity when race no longer determines one’s outcomes and when everyone has what they need to thrive, no matter where they live,” she said. “As a process, we apply racial equity when those most impacted by structural racial inequity are meaningfully involved in the creation and implementation of the policies and practices that impact their lives.”

Bryant recommended that the next steps are for county leaders to complete racial equity training, use racial equity principles when engaging the community and use the racial equity assessment lens for new initiatives and budget decisions.

@sarahchxi

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com 

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