Social justice can be defined as equal rights and equitable opportunities for all. It provides equal access to wealth, privileges, and participation within a society and concerns inequalities of race, gender, disability, and the environment, amongst others. For example, a history of Systemic Racism, an institutional form of racism that is embedded in policies and laws within our society, in this country and, even here in San Diego, has created a regional economy in which people of color may not have access to the same opportunities as white residents. To address these disparities, Partners are taking action to evaluate current practices and shift the status quo so that everyone has access to opportunities to participate in all aspects of economic, social, and civic life.
Promoting Discussion and Leadership
Partners held online workshops to help organizations and individuals discuss social justice issues and gain a better understanding of how to improve equity and take action.
The San Diego Workforce Partnership and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual workshop to discuss opportunities to implement equitable and inclusive practices within organizations called “Race, Equity and Worker Power in San Diego County.”
The North County African American Women’s Association has created numerous programs to empower people-of-color. They saw the need for coping and wellness tools among African-American women and girls and developed a trauma-informed mindfulness training. The North County LGBTQ Resource Center is a member of the newly created North County Equity and Justice Coalition focused on a broad swath of issues, including racial justice, police reform, climate change, LGBTQ rights and more. San Diego Family Magazine wrote an article to help families be a part of the change to end inequality, equipping parents and kids of all ages to turn words into action.
THE BLUE HEART FOUNDATION
The Blue Heart Foundation gives young men of color life skills for future success through holistic mentoring that facilitates positive interactions, education, empowerment, and emotional well-being which is a critical part of their lives. Zeke is like many young Black males in Southeast San Diego and across the United States: powerful beyond imagination with limitless potential.
Changes in Practice and Policy
Many jurisdictional partners listened to their communities and used that input to help identify opportunities for reform and accountability in practices and policy.
Police agencies across San Diego County, including departments in the City of Carlsbad, City of Chula Vista, City of Coronado, City of El Cajon, City of Escondido, City of La Mesa, City of National City, City of Oceanside, City of San Diego and the County of San Diego, adopted a collective philosophy on crisis management and de-escalation and banned the carotid restraint which gained worldwide attention for leading to George Floyd’s death while in custody of Minneapolis police. The County of San Diego declared racism a public health crisis in January 2021 and presented a budget that reflects resident needs for the future. They also enacted a policy that would allow all phone calls and video visits to be free of charge to anyone detained in a county-run jail or juvenile detention facility. The City of San Diego separated the city’s Office of Homeland Security from its Police Department as part of a wider effort to de-militarize the city’s emergency response.
Addressing Discrimination in Education
Many school partners are considering how discrimination should be confronted in the classroom.
The San Diego Unified School District will integrate anti-racism and ethnic studies education into its curriculum and is overhauling the way it grades students as part of a larger effort to eliminate barriers that prevent students of color from receiving an equitable education. The also recently dedicated the Pacific Beach Middle Joint-Use Field after Fannie and William Payne, African-American educators who overcame adversity in the 1940s. The San Diego County Office of Education provides professional learning and resources on equity, including an annual Equity Conference for hundreds of educators, parents, students, policymakers, advocates, and community members to advance educational equity for California’s students (view a playlist of sessions). In an effort to better serve the LGBTQ+ youth community in San Diego County, a new “LGBTQ+ Youth Standards of Care” guide was released in May of 2021 for school staff, educators, and administrators surrounding LGBTQ+ issues and school safety. The authors include TransFamily Support Services, the San Diego LGBT Community Center, North County LGBTQ Resource Center, San Diego Youth Services, YMCA of San Diego County, and SBCS, among others.
ABC 10 News shared the story of Sisters Ekene and Nene Okolo who were recognized for their creation of Black in PUSD. The Instagram account gave students a virtual space to share their experiences with racism and spurred racial reforms within the Poway Unified School District, including the creation of a task force and an ethnic studies class.
Events over the past two years have brought renewed focus on social injustice in our country. To effect change, both individuals and organizations must continue to listen and openly discuss issues of disparities and discrimination to gain a better understanding of how to improve equity and take action. Feedback from the community can be used to help identify opportunities for reform, maintain accountability in practices, and adjust policies and procedures from schools to the workplace. Together, we can transform our region into a place that values fairness, equity, and inclusion, and prioritizes policy and systems change for the betterment of all.