Racial Disparity Program Advances in NC


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Local and national events have pushed the subject of race, equality, and equity to the top of the city of Ashville, NC’s (6% Latino population) political agenda.

In a response to widespread public acclaim, city officials have put forth an ambitious $433,000 initiative to establish an Office of Equity and Diversity as well as a plan for a racial disparity study of their community.

Ashville’s City Council will review the plan, which is set to cost the city $350,000, during meetings in September 2016. The newly funded Office of Equity and Diversity will cost the city $110,000 this year and nearly $150,000 annually going forward. Staff have yet to be hired for the new department.

“Statistics and other evidence can be used to show decisions and practices have discriminatory effects — without proving that they’re the result of discriminatory intentions,” said City Councilman Keith Young on whether or not “institutional racism” exists within the city government.

The study and the ongoing equity programs are happening as the city continues to see racial gaps in wealth, public safety, health equity, education, and other factors.

After the study, one plan is to look at reevaluating and improving the existing city programs as well as draw from what was done in Seattle’s well-known Race and Social Justice Initiative.

“I think the starting point for us is looking at what we are doing now and how we might enhance it,” said Heather Dillishaw, the city’s community development manager.

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