The Chairman’s Stakeholders Council on Race – a group appointed in February that is composed of residents, staff and the civic, faith, nonprofit, philanthropic and business communities – has concluded its work and presented its findings to the Board of Supervisors at its Dec. 3 meeting.
The goal of the group was to foster open and honest discussions on issues surrounding race, with an ultimate goal of engaging the community to inform the county’s application of the One Fairfax policy – a joint initiative with Fairfax County Public Schools to intentionally consider equity when making policies or delivering programs and services.
The council partnered with the One Fairfax Community Roundtable – a group of community leaders originally convened in 2015 to participate in the development of the Equitable Growth Profile of Fairfax County – and offered these key insights:
- Race is a social construct and has no genetic basis. No one characteristic, trait or even gene distinguishes all the members of one so-called race from all the members of another so-called race. Race isn’t biological, but racism is real.
- Racialized practices in government and social institutions have afforded people differing access to opportunities and resources.
- Colorblindness or pretending race does not exist will not end racism. Racism is more than stereotypes and individual prejudice and must be addressed by identifying and remedying the social policies and institutional practices that advantage some groups at the expense of others.
- Racism is like a picture that looks different depending on the angle from which you look at it.
- Racism is driven by fear of the other and fear of loss.
- Race is the number one predictor of how well you’ll do in our society. People of color have disproportionate exposure to adverse conditions – social, economic, environmental, etc.
- Geography has become a proxy for race because of the history of housing segregation.
- We have inherited the structure of inequity that exists in the county today, but we do not have to maintain it.
- One Fairfax has made it easier to talk about equity, but it will be harder to talk about the actions that will get us there and what equity would actually look like in practice and in outcome.
- In acknowledging the inherent challenges of striving to be an equitable community, the Stakeholders Council embraced a quote from tennis great Arthur Ashe: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
We acknowledge the important progress made by the county government since the release of the Equitable Growth Profile in 2015 – the adoption of the One Fairfax resolution and policy, the appointment of the county’s first chief equity officer, and the designation and training of equity leads in each county department to lead the development of Equity Impact Plans.Chairman’s Stakeholders Council on Race Report
The council’s report suggests that in order to truly become One Fairfax, the community must work with the county to:
- Unearth the common values we share, recognizing that while we may start in different places and have different perspectives, we can all participate in becoming One Fairfax and becoming One Fairfax benefits us all.
- Help people see outside of the “bubbles” in which they live.
- Challenge people’s attitudes and misperceptions about where people live and why and why people face the life conditions they face.
- Embrace a policy agenda that focuses deliberately on creating the conditions for every Fairfax County resident to be healthy and successful.
- Equip and support people to realize and actualize their power and to activate their own networks to have comfortable and meaningful conversations about race and equity.
- Confront the opposing theories of scarcity vs. limitless possibility and acknowledge the economic impacts of not addressing the persistent inequities present in our community.
- Accept a shared understanding of our history, both nationally and locally, understanding that history is usually written by the winners, those who hold the power, and we must contest the dominant narratives that exist about the success and challenges of the county and its residents.
- Leaders in the private sector, faith community, nonprofit sector, philanthropic sector and community organizations need to be engaged in this work, as well, not just to monitor the progress of the government, but also to lead and support the work in their own organizations and sectors.