Dallas County Launches Racial Equity Task Force

On June 16, the Dallas County Commissioners Court formally declared racism a public health crisis in Dallas County and passed a corresponding court order, Court Order 2020-0583. The order outlines 10 resolutions demonstrating the Commissioners Court’s commitment to ensuring issues of racism and public health disparities due to racial inequities are addressed and resolved in Dallas County. 

Specifically, the order’s tenth resolution sparked the establishment of a Racial Equity Task Force, which, per the order, is directed to “identify clear goals and objectives, including periodic reports to the Commissioners Court, to assess progress and capitalize on opportunities to further advance racial equity.”  

Dallas County Administrator Darryl Martin was appointed to lead the task force, which is comprised of six subcommittees led by and including a combination of Dallas County department directors and employees dedicated to achieving racial equity in Dallas County. The six subcommittees include Employment and Training, Criminal and Juvenile Justice, Healthcare and Public Health, Contracting and Procurement, Transportation and Construction and Economic Development. 

“This task force and its mission are critical because socioeconomic and racial divides are becoming even more prominent in Dallas County,” Martin says. “I am excited to lead this initiative because it is time to bridge these divides and make Dallas County a more equitable place for everyone.” 

Martin and the task-force participants first met on June 25 to discuss their initial goals and concluded that Dallas County will achieve racial equity when:  

  • People, including people of color, are owners, planners and decision makers in the systems that govern their lives; 
  • Dallas County acknowledges and accounts for past and current inequities and provides all people, particularly those most impacted by racial inequities, the infrastructure needed to thrive; 
  • All Dallas County constituents benefit from a more just, equitable system. 

A complete list of June 25 meeting participants includes: Gordon Hikel, Assistant County Administrator; Jonathon Bazan, Assistant County Administrator; John Creuzot, District Attorney; Marian Brown, Sheriff; Charlene Randolph, Criminal Justice Department Director; Duane Steele, Pretrial Services Deputy Director; Michael Frosch, Purchasing Director/Agent; Robert Wilson, Human Resources Director; Kelvin Alexander, Human Resources Analyst; Ronica Watkins, Budget Officer; Erica Terrazas, Senior Policy Analyst; Rick Loessberg, Director of Planning and Development; Philip Huang, Health and Human Services Director; Darryl Beatty, Juvenile Department Executive Director; LaSonya Allen, Small Business Enterprise Outreach Officer; Lynn Richardson, Chief Public Defender; Michael Grace, Director of Unincorporated Area Services; Alberta Blair, Public Works Director; Janette Weedon, Budget Director; Charles Reed, Budget and Policy Analyst; Russell Roden, Deputy Administrator, Bureau D; Tonyeka Drake, Project Analyst; Vincent Hall, Office Manager – Commissioner John Wiley Price; Yoshika Smith, Auditor, Accounts Payable; Frederick Cerise, President and CEO of Parkland Health & Hospital System; Darryl Martin, County Administrator.

Dallas County confirmed it defines terms relevant to the Racial Equity Task Force’s mission as follows.

  • Racism: Racism is a complex system of beliefs and behaviors, grounded in a presumed superiority of the white race. These beliefs and behaviors are conscious and unconscious; personal and institutional; and result in the oppression of people of color and benefit the dominant group, whites. A simpler definition is racial prejudice + power = racism. (Source: National Conference for Community and Justice — St. Louis Region. Unpublished handout used in the Dismantling Racism Institute program.) 
  • Individual Racism: The beliefs, attitudes and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can occur at both a conscious and unconscious level and can be both active and passive. Examples include telling a racist joke, using a racial epithet or believing in the inherent superiority of whites. (Source: Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell and Pat Griffin, editors. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge.) 
  • Institutional Racism: Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as non-white. Examples: 1) Government policies that explicitly restricted the ability of people to get loans to buy or improve their homes in neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans (also known as “red-lining”). 2) City sanitation department policies that concentrate trash transfer stations and other environmental hazards disproportionately in communities of color. (Source: Racial Equity Resource Guide.) 
  • Racial Equity: 1) Racial equity is defined as both an outcome and a process. As an outcome, we achieve racial equity when race no longer determines one’s socioeconomic outcomes; when everyone has what they need to thrive, no matter where they live. 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 institutional policies and practices that impact their lives. (Source: Center of Social Inclusion.) 2) Racial equity is the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When we use the term, we are thinking about racial equity as one part of racial justice, and thus we also include work to address root causes of inequities, not just their manifestation. This includes elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or fail to eliminate them. (Source: Center for Assessment and Policy Development.)