Racine County has some significant issues around race, equity, and inclusion, specifically around health, education, and financial stability.
Crystalized in the United Way of Racine County Community Conversation Report that took two years to develop, over 300 Racine County residents participated in the community-wide discussion.
During an event held at Festival Hall Thursday, hundreds of people listened to the data around Racine County’s problem. But officials also offered up succinct action steps that the community could take to help address the issue.
Rodney Prunty, president of the United Way of Racine County, encouraged the attendees — business owners, social service agencies, and donors — to dedicate themselves to learning more about the racial issues that exist in Racine County.
“No one person, group, ethnicity, race, or organization can create the kind of lasting societal change we need by themselves,” he said. “It takes all of us.”
The data around race, equity, and inclusion
But not all Racine County residents believe systemic racism — which is expressed through social and political systems — exists here. Still, Prunty pointed to the data in the report, which shows that:
- Black infants in Racine County are twice as likely to be low birth weight than white babies.
- Black students (25 percent) are suspended at a higher rate than Hispanic or white classmates (12.1 percent), an issue Racine Unified is addressing through a program called Circles of Support.
- The black unemployment rate in the City of Racine has been at 18 percent in the City of Racine while the white unemployment rate was 9 percent from 2012 through 2016.
“Everyone is not succeeding,” he said. “Now this is true across systems. And it is not accidental. It’s been true for hundreds of years. But here’s where it gets liberating. No one in this room is responsible for the institution of these systems.”
Once a community has knowledge and awareness of the issues around race, equity, and inclusion, it has an obligation to fix the problems, Prunty said.
During the report out, several challenges emerged, including understanding racism and the effects of stereotyping, addressing systemic inequities, lack of resources to create positive change within neighborhoods and communities of people of color, and racially segregated neighborhoods.
Respondents also outlined several aspirations, including the need for a business community to reflect the demographics of its community, understanding and accepting racial differences, developing an equitable, inclusive and safe community, and the need for diverse leadership.
“We can’t let what we know to be systemic inequities discourage us. And we can’t let the actions of a few jade our view of the world drive a wedge deeper between us,” Prunty said.
Call to action defined
During the meeting, Steven Mussenden, executive director of the Racine Literacy Council highlighted several next steps to help the community build its “equity muscle.”
He asked the community to sign the United Way of Racine County Community Pledge: Declaration of Inclusion. The document asks the person to commit to treating people with respect and “appreciate all aspects of any person.” It can be accessed by clicking here.
United Way of Racine County is creating a diversity council to help businesses focus on areas of race, equity, and inclusion by offering training and support services. They are also planning a community event called OneRacine, which will celebrate the community’s diversity, on Oct. 6 at Festival Hall.
“I invite you to join me in getting involved,” Mussenden said. “Let’s get started.”
In full disclosure, Racine County Eye owner Denise Lockwood participated in the United Way of Racine County Community Conversation around Race, Equality, and Inclusion. It was after hearing the experiences of others, that she initiated the Black Men Speak project.