Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Racial Equity in Parks and Recreation

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Racial Equity in Parks and Recreation

Article excerpt

Equity and equality are sometimes used interchangeably, but actually convey very different ideas. Equity is about fairness while equality is about sameness. Racial equity means that race can no longer be used to predict life outcomes and life outcomes for all groups are improved.

Working for racial equity is to our collective benefit. When we think about racial disparities, we often think about how inequities affect communities of color. The goal is not to just eliminate the gap between white people and people of color, but to increase our collective success. For example, using plain language to convey our policies and procedures will make them easier for all community members. Improving outdated hiring practices will strengthen the hiring process for all employees. Creating inclusive and welcoming environments will ensure that all people will feel welcome.

Why Race?

While explicit acts of discrimination became illegal through the Civil Rights Act, government policies and practices included "race-neutral" approaches that perpetuated racial inequities, often without explicit intent. Across every indicator for success, from jobs to housing, education, criminal justice and health, we still see deep and pervasive racial inequities nationwide.

Focusing on racial equity seeks to address the institutional and structural racism that perpetuates these disparities. Institutional racism is when policies, procedures and practices work better for white people than for people of color, often unintentionally. Structural racism refers to the history and current reality of institutional racism across all institutions, combining to create a system that negatively impacts people of color.

Why Is This Important to Parks and Recreation Professionals?

It is anticipated that by 2042 people of color will become the majority population in the United States. Children of color are on course to reach that milestone by 2023.

Parks and recreation services in this country offer a great opportunity to advance racial equity. To that end, park and recreation services need to be at the forefront of addressing the inequities in our society.

Racial Equity Tools

Too often, policies and programs are developed and implemented without thoughtful consideration of racial equity. When racial equity is not explicitly brought into operations and decision-making, racial inequities are likely to be perpetuated. Racial equity tools are designed to integrate explicit consideration of racial equity in decisions, including policies, practices, programs and budgets, and to provide a structure for institutionalizing the consideration of racial equity. A racial equity tool:

* Proactively seeks to eliminate racial inequities and advance equity.

* Identifies clear goals, objectives and measurable outcomes.

* Engages community in decision-making processes.

* Identifies who will benefit or be burdened by a given decision, examines potential unintended consequences of a decision, and develops strategies to advance racial equity and mitigate unintended negative consequences.

* Develops mechanisms for successful implementation and evaluation of impact.

Use of a racial equity tool is an important step to operationalizing equity but is not sufficient by itself. In order to move forward, we must normalize conversations about race, operationalize new behaviors and policies, and organize to achieve racial equity.

Bossen Field: A Racial Equity Pilot Project

Bossen Field, which serves as a citywide athletic facility and neighborhood park on the south edge of Minneapolis, is a 37-acre park with 10 softball/baseball fields, one soccer/football field, a basketball court, two play areas, a wading pool, and parking lots.

In the past two decades, the neighborhood immediately surrounding Bossen has seen significant increase in racial and ethnic diversity with growing populations of Hispanic, African-American and new African immigrants. …

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