Marin County is the most racially unequal county in California, according to a new report by Advancement Project California, a Los Angeles-based civil rights organization.
By RICHARD HALSTEAD | Marin Independent Journal
The report — which received funding from the California Endowment, the California Wellness Foundation, the Rosenberg Foundation and the Sierra Health Foundation — arrived at its rankings after examining California counties’ performance in seven key areas: democracy, economic opportunity, crime and justice, access to health care, healthy built environments, education and housing.
The report found that in every county in the state whites generally fare better in these categories than African Americans, Latinos, Asians and other people of color. For example, 62.6 percent of whites in Marin own their own home, compared with 59.8 percent of Asians, 27.7 percent of African-Americans, 26.4 percent of Latinos and 8.5 percent of Native Americans.
“In the Bay Area, we see tremendous prosperity and high levels of performance but unfortunately that prosperity is only for the few,” said John Kim, executive director of Advancement Project California.
“In a county like Marin, which is at the top of the charts in performance in areas like economic opportunity, culture and education, we also find it is the most racially disparate of any county in the state,” Kim said. “It’s No. 1.”
By comparison, the report ranked Alameda County as the sixth most racially unequal county; San Mateo County as the 13th most unequal; San Francisco County, 14th; Los Angeles County, 30th; Contra Costa County, 32nd; Santa Clara County, 33rd and Sonoma County, 48th.
The report found that the Bay Area is the home of both the highest-performing counties in the state and most racially disparate counties.
“Several counties in the Bay Area like San Francisco, Alameda and San Mateo all demonstrate this same dynamic of high performance and high disparity, showing us that a rising tide does not lift all boats,” Kim said.
Marin’s poorest performance came in the housing category, where it also ranked first in racial inequity. It ranked as the county with the second-most racial disparity in the categories of economic opportunity and crime/justice.
Marin scored best in the category of democracy, which it was ranked as the 43rd most racially unequal, and education, which it was ranked 23rd most unequal.
Marin County Assistant Administrator Angela Nicholson said the county is taking steps to make its employees more aware of racial inequities.
“In January, we’re rolling out training for all 2,000 of our employees that will talk about structural racism and Marin’s racial history,” Nicholson said.
Last month, the county of Marin and Dominican University sponsored a talk by Richard Rothstein, the author of “The Color of Law.” Rothstein talked about the restrictive covenants that once prevented people of color from owning homes in Marin and other communities throughout the United States. Nicholson said some of those Marin covenants still exist.
“It’s certainly illegal but they still exist on legal title for houses in the county,” she said.
Nicholson said the county needs to carefully consider the racial consequences for every policy decision it makes.
“Even though it’s something we don’t think has to do with equity,” she said, “we really need to dig down and look at who it benefits and who it burdens, and if it continues to burden people who have carried that burden for many years, we have to make a different decision.”
Nicholson said the county is in the process of developing a racial equity tool that each county department “will have to go through before they make policy decisions.”
Michael Daly, the county’s chief probation officer, said his department contracted with the W. Haywood Burns Institute based in Oakland from 2009 to 2014 to examine the racial equity of its procedures.
Daly said as a result, Marin’s probation department developed a numeric evaluation procedure to guarantee that decisions about which juveniles will be booked into juvenile hall and which will be released to parents are being made on an objective basis.
Daly said the county is seeing its lowest percentages ever for African-American juveniles being booked into juvenile hall.
Earlier this month, the county of Marin and the Marin Community Foundation sponsored the second annual Marin Equity Summit at the Marin Center.
More than 200 people attended the summit with the objective of ultimately mapping out a 10-year plan for addressing racial and economic inequities in Marin County.
But the woman who came up with the idea for the summit, Cio Hernandez, a former policy analyst for Marin County’s Department of Health and Human Services, said she recently quit her job because of what she considers to be a pay inequity. She now works as a private psychotherapist.
“The inequities that I was facing were too strong,” Hernandez said. “I would have continued as a career employee if things were different.”
Hernandez said a county survey found that county employees who are women of color earn 33 percent less than white male employees.
Hernandez said, “What that really means is women of color don’t get promoted in the county.”
The report is available online at racecounts.org.