Equity and Opportunity in Montgomery County
Our society is unequal, but of perhaps greater concern, it is inequitable. Synonyms for inequitable: biased, unfair, unbalanced, discriminatory. We need to redress past inequity. We need to ensure opportunity for all.
We must concern ourselves with discrimination, whether intended or not, associated with gender, race and ethnicity, geography, economic resources. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr., injustice to any person and not just in any place.
Let’s think in terms of redress, having two senses: correction (of the underlying inequity) and compensation, noting that in many cases, those who are advantaged in an inequitable situation and wield power in that situation are not those who created the situation. We’re nonetheless duty-bound to address it.
- Let’s ensure educational programming and spending that will close the achievement gap and, even better, prevent it from opening via universal pre-K and early learning opportunities.
- Let’s address criminal-justice issues that have led to mass incarceration of African American and other minority youth and adults – end the school-to-prison pipeline – apply principles of restorative justice – boost reintegration into society.
- Let’s recognize the role African Americans and other minorities have played in building our county and historic discrimination against women and LGBTQ neighbors: We aim for inclusion and balance and equitable civic and political representation.
- Let’s help all county residents thrive, including seniors via aging-in-community initiatives and immigrants via English-language instruction and cultural sensitivity.
- Every resident deserves safe and affordable housing in an attractive neighborhood, strong schools, convenient transportation, and fair wages and the opportunity to start a business.
I applaud Montgomery County Public Schools’ Equity Initiatives Unit, aiming for awareness, knowledge, and understanding of one’s own and students’ and staff’s racial and cultural identity. Let’s extend this framework to gender and sexuality and let’s apply it broadly to county government.
The bottom line: Equity should be a primary consideration in Montgomery County revenue, spending, and programing decisions, and in county government operations. I will work to make that happen.
A recently published Urban Institute report, “Racial Inequities in Montgomery County: 2011–15,” describes “a challenge in overcoming the racial and ethnic inequities that are highlighted in the divide between Council District 1, home to Bethesda and Chevy Chase, and District 5, where Silver Spring and Takoma Park are located.”
The report is worth a look. “This brief measures inequities in education, income, employment, and homeownership by race and ethnicity in Montgomery County and its council districts and provides a profile on what racial equity would look like in the county. Quantifying this information will help county agencies, policymakers, and advocates recognize the community’s needs and to build new solutions and create a more equitable county.”
Please visit sethgrimes.org/issues for the statement in the first part of this article and other takes on Montgomery County concerns.