The District’s new office of racial equity, CORE (Council on Racial Equity), is being set up as a change maker to level the playing field between whites and people of color in the city in public policy and daily life and residents.
“Our main responsibility is to normalize, operationalize and organize around racial equity,” Dr. Brian McClure, the director of CORE, said. “The outcome is to achieve racial equity in the District.”
CORE serves as a product of D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie’s (D-Ward 5), Racial Equity Achieves Results Act of 2020. The office started operating on Jan. 18, the day of observance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who advocated and preached for equity.
McClure and his staff of four are to make sure the goal of racial equity is pursued. Under the law, the office is to be the advocate for equity among racial groups in the city.
“There needs to be a tool to explain the racial disparities in the District,” McClure said. “The government plays a role in creating and perpetuating those racial disparities and it should be the entity to dismantle them.”
The District’s population stands at 46% Black and about 38% white, according to 2019 census data. However, according to the 2015-2019 American Community Survey focusing on the District:
– The Black homeownership rate stands at 35% compared to 50% for whites.
– The poverty rate for Blacks comes out to 26% in contrast to 6% for whites.
– The dimensions of poverty for Black children hover around 37% but for whites, only 1%.
– The number of adults age 25 and older without a high school diploma or GED lingers at 14% but for whites, the rate comes out to 1%.
Before becoming the director, McClure worked on the McDuffie staff, playing a key organizational role in the racial equity working group that grew into CORE.
McClure said he understands the history of Black progress in the District as far as education and economics throughout the years. Nevertheless, he says a problem of racial equity has long existed.
“Even though D.C. use to be known as ‘Chocolate City’ and Blacks were doing very well in the years after the Civil Rights Movement, the disparities have grown since that time,” he said. He said presently about 26% of all District government contracts are allocated to Black-owned businesses and “the rest go to large companies.”
“This is what we are working for in this office,” McClure said. “We want to see businesses owned by people of color to get a fair shot at government contracts.”
Alfred Swailes, the owner of A &A Premium Paint Distribution, LLC and a leader in the D.C. Black Business Task Force which advocates for more government contracts for African American businesses, expressed support for the office.
“That office will show and verify to government officials that there is a problem with Black businesses getting government contracts,” Swailes said. “I am also happy the office will chart the racial progress in government contracting. I hope it gets around to deal with remedies soon.”
Jacque Patterson, a newly sworn-in at-large member of the D.C. State Board of Education, is the chief community engagement officer for KIPP DC, a group of charter schools in the city. Like Swailes, Patterson supports CORE.
“I feel like this office is long overdue,” Patterson said. “You have companies that do business with the city but don’t make an effort to hire District residents, especially those who are people of color.”
Patterson said he got a sense of the passion that McDuffie had when the council member peppered him with questions about the redevelopment of KIPP DC’s of the Ferebee-Hope campus.
“He asked us tough questions regarding KIPP DC’s hiring and contracting practices for our $90 million project,” he said. “McDuffie had every right to do that. Any businesses who want city contracts should have to answer those questions. CORE should definitely play a role in seeing racial equity happens in D.C.”