Push for racial equity starts with everybody

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By Mayor Eric Garcetti

Contributing Columnist

Every day we remember them.

The names are still seared in our hearts and the demands for justice are still fresh in our minds: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McClain, and too many others — the memories, the anguish, the rage will stay with us forever.

Their needless deaths are stark reminders of what’s broken within our system. Yet their legacies can be turning points of what can be built in our society — if every one of us acts on our determination to root out structural racism in our laws, our economy and our lives.

Here in Los Angeles, our commitment to racial equity isn’t measured in statements delivered when tensions are high or promises made when peaceful protests fill our streets.

It’s judged by what we do when nobody is watching, when the spotlight dims, when cries for change quiet down and the hard, painstaking work of progress truly happens. It’s determined by how we act, not what we say, and it starts with the elected leaders and public servants entrusted by Angelenos to advance fairness in our city’s policies.

That’s where our Anti-Bias Learning for Employees, or ABLE, initiative comes into play. Starting this month, everyone who works for the city of Los Angeles — on my staff and across all of our departments — will be required to complete an implicit bias training program.

ABLE will equip employees with the tools to confront systemic racism honestly and address deep inequalities effectively. It’s built out of a partnership with Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, a leading force in this sector, and it’s centered on three core concepts: first, understanding implicit bias; second, recognizing our own biases; and third, identifying, understanding, counteracting and mitigating negative bias on an individual level.

As part of this effort, city staff will explore the historical, psychological and institutional causes of implicit bias and confront how these long-standing structures directly impact us.

The program will help us apply lessons about bias in real-world, workplace situations. Perhaps most important, this training will compel participants to look inside themselves — to grasp where we each fall short and how we can improve one person at a time.

ABLE isn’t happening in isolation. It fulfills a central plank of my executive directive last summer to advance racial equity across city government.

That effort led us to appoint Deputy Mayor Brenda Shockley as L.A.’s first-ever chief equity officer. That drive created the city of Los Angeles Racial Equity Task Force, which brings together representatives from every department to help us advance diversity in our hiring, promotion, contracting and all facets of public service.

And this comes alongside the establishment of the new Los Angeles Civil + Human Rights and Equity Department, led by Capri Maddox, focused on protecting Angelenos from discrimination in private employment, housing, education or commerce.

Simply put, ABLE is just one more step in our long process of healing and our lasting pledge of equity.

The reckoning with racial injustice last year awakened us to the persistence of the problems before us. But they weren’t new; to the contrary, they’ve been there for centuries.

And today, the question is: as we enter this African American Heritage Month, as we scan the landscape of the city we are and the one we wish to build, how can we be a part of the solution? How can we make equity the prism through which we see our past, present and future?

This is a step in the right direction. And it’s up to us to keep marching toward the ultimate goal: true liberty and justice for all.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs monthly in The Wave.

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