Developing Strategies for Racial and Social Equity

GOAL:

Dedicate permanent institutional resources and empower communities through advocacy and partnership to root out systemic inequity and promote social, economic, and environmental justice.

Cleveland Heights is diverse. According to the latest Census data, racially we are about 50% white, 41% black, 5% Asian, and the remaining 4% other racial and/or ethnic identities. This makes us more diverse than the United States as a whole. And we are proud of it.

Yet, racially, our population is not distributed evenly across the city. The north side has a larger proportion of people of color, and the south side a larger proportion of white people. We also see other differences between the north and south sides—property values, the quality of infrastructure, commercial investment and success, environmental protection, educational advocacy, crime levels, and on and on.

But diversity is more than race. It also includes ethnicity, religion, tribal affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, income, citizenship, and first-generation status, to name a few. It’s important that we see diversity not as a checklist of identities but instead as an understanding of communities that have been marginalized, neglected, exploited, and harmed. 

If we are to truly embrace and celebrate our diversity, we must do more than pay it lip service. We must be inclusive, and we must be proactive in identifying the roots of inequity in our city. And then we must develop strategies to meaningfully address and eliminate them.

Value commitments are not enough. To really do this, we need plans—including tangible goals, action steps, timelines, and metrics for assessing our progress. And we must devote resources, including funding and staff, to ensure that our city’s work aligns with our community’s values.

For this work to be impactful, the drive and resources must come from the top-down. But if our work in equity is to be, well, equitable, the direction and the approach needs to be led from the bottom-up. We need both institutional investments and planning from City Hall as well as ongoing community engagement and empowerment. In doing so, we will effectively fuse a traditional needs-based approach—“What can we do to help you?”—with a transformative asset-based one that recognizes people’s strengths and experience: “We see that you have a lot to offer, and we want your voices at the table.”

How I Work to Increase Racial and Social Equity:

  1. I will advocate to make the Racial Justice Task Force a permanent citizen committee. (It is currently set to “adjourn and complete its work not later than nine months after its first meeting, unless this period is extended by Council.”)
  2. I will encourage the Mayor to hire a permanent, full-time Equity Director who will:
  • identify inequities in our city;
  • develop goals, strategies, and timelines for addressing and eliminating inequities, as well as metrics for overseeing progress and determining effectiveness; 
  • collaborate with the Racial Justice Task Force as well as community organizations working on issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice, such as the Heights Community Congress and Safer Heights, to inform and guide best practices and to drive community engagement; and
  • report semiannually to the Mayor and Council on their work and plans.