ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: Time to take action against systemic racism

0
669

Anderson Herald-Bulletin

Gov. Eric Holcomb recently took another baby step toward addressing systemic racism in Indiana.

On Aug. 10, Holcomb’s office lauded the launch of a “public disparity data portal” online as a “view into current equity gaps that exist in health, public safety, social services, education and workforce.”

The press release went on to say, “The information reveals key areas the state will focus on to address disparities in our communities and monitor overall progress throughout the state.”

To be clear, the dashboard doesn’t introduce any new information; it just pulls together and presents the already available statistics from 2014 through 2020. As most already knew, the data shows a troubling disparity between Indiana’s white majority and Black minority.

Here’s some of the evidence:

In 2020, Black people comprised 9.3% of the state’s population but accounted for 25.4% of police arrests.

In educational attainment, more than 27% of white Hoosiers have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with just 19% of the state’s Black residents 25 years of age and older.

In February 2021, the white unemployment rate was 6.7%; the Black rate was 12.6%.

In 2019, the median household income for white Hoosiers was $61,000; for Black Hoosiers, it was $36,000.

The new public disparity dashboard succeeds in pulling together important data to characterize the scope of racial disparities in Indiana. It’s important to know exactly what the problem is before seeking to solve it.

But there are no surprises in the data. And now, it’s time — way past time — to do something about it.

The state does have the beginnings of an action plan in the form of recommendations from the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet.

Among the recommendations:

–Engage community leaders to engage with local citizens regarding access to education and employment resources.

–Create better data transparency and timely tracking of Hoosiers who take advantage of the state’s education and workforce programs.

–Set targets for increased enrollment and completion in key sectors, like STEM fields and education.

–Identify and partner with Indiana employers, local economic development, and chambers of commerce to boost the state’s education and employment programs.

–Allocate funding with the Employer Training Grant program specifically to minority-, veteran-, and women-owned businesses.

–Advance success strategies that close equity achievement gaps in education and the workforce.

The development of these recommendations, the establishment of a data disparity portal online and the appointment in November of a “Chief Equity, Inclusion and Opportunity officer” are all baby steps toward addressing the complex, generations-old problem of systemic racism in Indiana.

Now it’s time for the governor’s team and other state leaders to roll up their sleeves and do the real work of changing laws and reforming judicial, educational, employment, health care and other systems across the state to solve the problem.