Bowser’s DC Government Racial Equity Plan Leaves Much to Be Desired

D.C. Mayor Bowser’s “Draft Racial Equity Action Plan ” (REAP) is a public relations document
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D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s “Draft Racial Equity Action Plan ” (REAP) is a public relations document which reflects a continued commitment to the systemic foundations of racial inequities. As a follow-up to the empty gesture of painting the words “Black Lives Matter” on 800 16th Street Northwest, Washington, DC and declaring that space “Black Lives Matter Plaza ”, the REAP suggests that the state structures which maintain settler colonialism and capitalism can be a remedy for racial inequity.

“It is our charge and our responsibility to put in place policies that are intentional about ending structural racism and reversing the legacies of policies that intentionally locked Black and brown Washingtonians out of opportunity and the ability to build wealth,” Bowser said when announcing the REAP on November 16, 2022 as a first for D.C. of such a plan.

REAP is a process that is intended to result in actions that the city government will take to close racial equity gaps; such as employing staff who understand and are committed to eliminating racial and ethnic inequities; meaningfully engaging the community in government decision-making processes; and strengthening community partnerships around racially equitable hiring, promotion, and retention practices.

Bowser’s use of the term “legacies'' denotes policies which perpetuate racial inequities are mere relics of the past that are not tied to the corporate genuflecting promotion of gentrification which Mayor Bowser herself has led throughout her terms in office.

Pan-African Community Action (PACA) contends that white supremacy and neoliberal capitalism are contemporary root causes for persistent racial inequities. And at their core is the intra-community violence that disproportionately plagues Black and Brown communities as a reflection of the despair and frustration it produces.

Invariably, the D.C. government’s responses to the people’s despair and frustration has been no different than the state responses in other major U.S. cities; criminalization, increased policing, and mass incarceration. In 2021 Bowser “quietly replaced an older white police chief with a younger Black successor” and pushed “for money to build up Metropolitan Police Department staffing, currently at 3,500, to 4,000 officers over the next decade.”

REAP, proposed as a 2023 to 2025 blueprint, is supposed to address in three years for D.C. alone what is the result of centuries of racial capitalism on a national scale. And it is to do so not by exposing, renouncing and rejecting capitalism, but by embracing it.

Management of this effort will fall under D.C.’s Office of Racial Equity (ORE), one of several such offices that have cropped up across the U.S. in compliance with federal executive order 13985 . The “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government” was signed by “shoot’em in the leg ”, 1994 crime bill-Biden on his first day in office as POTUS.

This executive order and its liberal accessories are the disingenuous response by the U.S. oligarchy to nearly a decade of unrest and rebellions, starting with the murder of Trayvon Martin, that saw a zenith after the murder of George Floyd and the exposing of the crisis of capitalism by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local and federal politicians, responsible for the racist, anti-working class oppression and repression meted out against the people, have positioned themselves to be the arbiters of redress for the systemic injustices that define Americanism. In the process they have hijacked the speech of the movement, utilizing concepts like “structural racism”, “the most impacted”, and “applying a… lens” denoting a specific group. Classic elite capture.

Even the multinational investment bank Goldman Sachs is in on the act, with its “One Million Black Women ” initiative that is “investing $10 billion over the next decade to help narrow opportunity gaps facing Black women.”

PACA understands the only outcomes that can be reasonably expected from these blueprints are government and corporate grants to nonprofits and community organizations who will be co-opted to co-sign and carry water for the Democratic Party. REAP will avert criticisms of the D.C. government and the Biden administration; further distorting neoliberal contradictions and pushing actual strategies in addressing racial equity further away. And concerns for “safety” under the auspices of a settler colonist state will mean more “training” for more Black and Brown police officers to apply “a racial equity lens” to the enforcement of the laws of capitalism and settler colonialism.

U.S. imperialism targets countries for regime change that make radical achievements in addressing race and class inequities. Countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Libya (under the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya overthrown by the US and NATO partners in 2011) have made housing, healthcare, and K- through university-level education human rights guaranteed by the state to their people free of charge with genuine programs for addressing racism; these liberatory activities are met by the U.S. with imposing illegal extraterritorial sanctions, vilifying propaganda campaigns, and CIA operations for internal subversion.

Mayor Bowser’s REAP draft brags of being the product of many interactions of listening sessions involving residents, community organizations, and relevant government agency personnel. This gives the appearance of a participatory and democratic process but cannot replace actually building community-led power through political education and true permanent participatory programs of action.

Genuine attempts by the rulers to address racial inequity would require structures like an Office for Elimination of Class Disparity & All Related Intersectionalities or an Office for The Abolition of Racist Oppression & Political Repression, or an Agency for the Human Right to Decolonization & Self-determination, or an Office for Collective Community Control. If the titles of these offices and agencies seem extreme or unreasonable it is only because it is outlandish to expect the U.S. to admit what the root causes are to structural racism and the country’s role in its domestic and global manifestations, let alone to honestly address it.

PACA believes as Malcolm X asserted that “A chicken cannot lay a duck egg,” explaining that “The present American ‘system’ can never produce freedom… because the chicken’s ‘system’ is not designed or equipped to produce a duck egg.” If it could it would be one revolutionary chicken.

Source: Pan-African Community Action (PACA) is a D.C based grassroots group of African/Black people organizing for community-based power as part of a historic and global movement for Pan-Africanism, the liberation and unification of Africa, and of African people on the continent and in the diaspora, under the economic system of scientific socialism. Learn more at www.pacapower.org .

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