OC Forum: “The Future of Race Relations” Recap – June 11, 2020
In its ongoing mission to foster important conversations, the OC Forum presented “The Future of Race Relations” on Thursday, June 11, bringing together a panel of experts on this critical subject matter including moderator: the Honorable Letitia Clark, Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Tustin. Panelists included:
- Kelsey M. Brewer, communications & policy manager of Jamboree Housing and chair of the OC Young Democrats
- Eugene Fields, communications manager of CAIR Los Angeles
- Douglas M. Haynes, PH. D, vice chancellor of equity, diversity & inclusion and professor of history at UC Irvine
- Bill Lewis, board member of 100 Black Men of Orange County
- Robert V. McDonald, president and CEO of the OC Black Chamber
- Bayo Thomas, senior vice president, consumer business banking region executive – Greater Orange County, Bank of America
The virtual forum can be accessed via YouTube at bit.ly/OCForumRaceInOC at no cost thanks to the support of “The Future of” series sponsors, UC Irvine and UCI Health, and the event sponsor, Bank of America.
Douglas M. Haynes, PH. D, vice chancellor of equity, diversity & inclusion and professor of history at UC Irvine
As UCI Vice Chancellor equity, diversity, & inclusion, Dr. Haynes explored what brought us here today with the civil unrest and riots over the death of George Floyd, what is happening now that is different from what has transpired before, the difference between racism and implicit bias, and how we can educate ourselves to fight against implicit bias.
What brought us here: In discussing what brought us here today, Dr. Haynes explored how essential it is to recognize that African Americans were forcibly brought to this county as enslaved individuals over 400 years ago, and that violence toward them was an integral part of forcing their enslavement, as well as maintaining it and building the country around it.
During the age of Jim Crow, the violence toward African Americans persisted, and again, African Americans were subject to a wide range of forms of coercion, intimidation and violence.
When we look at the period since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there has been a persistent pattern of unrest that has been triggered by police violence, or some form of violence that’s directed toward the African American community.
What is happening now: “One thing that is striking about what is happening now,” Dr. Haynes said, “is that whether it’s a two-dimensional photograph, or a grainy video, the death of George Floyd is mobilizing a lot of people due to the imagery being distributed across social media platforms. It is a powerful thing that is contributing to the movement and protests nationwide.”
The response to the recorded image is important, Dr. Haynes explained, but part of the reason why African Americans have mixed feelings is that they have seen it before.
Racism vs. Implicit Bias: Dr. Haynes explained that while racism is a conscious hatred toward a group of individuals, implicit bias is a condition that is pervasive, and it requires educating ourselves on the structures and mechanisms that devalue black people.
For example, the State of California devotes 9.5% of its discretionary budget to prisons, but only 4.5% to the University of California and California State University system. While African Americans make up 7% of the statewide population, they only represent 4% of the undergraduate population in the University of California, while the percentage of African American inmates is 1 out of 3, or 28%.
Beyond the death of George Floyd, we as a society need to learn more and apply that learning to hold certain institutions accountable. And above all, we have to vote.
Bayo Thomas, senior vice president, consumer business banking region executive – Greater Orange County, Bank of America
Robert V. McDonald, president and CEO of the OC Black Chamber
Community Involvement: Bobby McDonald, CEO of the OC Black Chamber, started the discussion by suggesting that the community must get more involved in order to affect cultural change.
“In a moment like this in history where we see attention specifically focused on racial tension, this might be an opportunity to say, okay, are there any black people around the table?” McDonald said. “We need to be intentional in making sure our voices are heard.”
Community Investment: Beyond community engagement, Bayo Thomas, Sr. Vice President, Bank of America, talked about how ownership and investment in the community translates to the private and public sectors making structural changes beyond the protests.
For example, Bank of America has committed $1 billion dollars over the next four years in a commitment to help local cities address economic and racial inequalities in communities of color.
With this funding, and those like it, the private sector can play a major part in making sure the movement ends in actionable results – particularly, structural changes that are needed.
Business Partnerships: McDonald explained the importance of chamber and business partnerships to drive diversity in the community.
For example, Orange County Business Council and the OC Black Chamber of Commerce have put together a diversity program of business leaders, local officials, and the police force to create a meaningful dialogue, and are going further to involve the media in discussions around the importance of diversity.
Bill Lewis, board member of 100 Black Men of Orange County
Eugene Fields, communications manager of CAIR Los Angeles
Shared Experience: Bill Lewis, board member of 100 Black Men of OC, and Eugene Fields, communications manager of CAIR Los Angeles, discussed shared experiences that are common in the Black community, including being stopped by police, and preparing for how to react if something racially-charged were to happen that day.
Continuing the Conversation: Lewis and Fields explained further that while many of us may not have had this experience, it is crucial to understand that it is happening, and the decision must be made by many of us to not stay on the fence on this issue, but rather get involved and move the conversation forward.
Kelsey M. Brewer, communications & policy manager of Jamboree Housing and chair of the OC Young Democrats
Kelsey Brewer, communications & policy manager of Jamboree Housing and chair of the OC Young Democrats, discussed how to keep the mobilization that we’re seeing going, as well as moving forward with the conversation and work being done.
Mobilization: Brewer discussed how mobilization requires much more than just throwing money at the problem – which is police brutality – but actually having those difficult conversations, doing additional trainings, and really looking at the system itself and whether the system we are investing in is giving us the required outcome. Brewer went on to say that we need a broader definition of what public safety means, and we need to fund programs that actually produce public safety outcomes.
Diverse Funding: Brewer noted that in association to police officers, most of us think of burglaries and assaults and car crashes, yet 90% of calls to the police are related to issues like homelessness, mental health and drug addiction. Unfortunately, police officers can often do nothing to solve these issues, so it is actually continuing the problem. Brewer encouraged more diverse funding to programs that deal with these issues, rather than expecting police officers to take care of them.