Where local political, community, and philanthropic leaders openly prioritize racial diversity and inclusion, there is more hope and optimism in their community’s future among residents.
Residents across the South consistently cited political leadership and effective government as critical avenues for creating systemic change to issues of race and class. Political leaders are using their convening power to prompt communitywide discussions about race and healing. In the places where leaders openly embraced the concepts of racial equity and diversity, there is more awareness and openness to the concepts across the community.
On the flip side, many residents expressed frustration with a lack of transparency from their local governments, as well as the lack of concrete outcomes to show for a variety of discussions and equity planning processes, such as more community development investment, affordable housing, and equitable transportation planning. Racial disparities across areas like housing and education further contribute to the lack of trust, particularly among communities of color.
Many black interviewees also acknowledged the legacy of fear of law enforcement, rooted in a deeply painful history, which has been replicated or reinforced by police violence in recent years. More transparency, engagement from political leadership and policies like body-worn cameras were discussed as ways to improve police-community race relations.
“I was at a meeting with some person a few years older than me, and they said, ‘We’ve been meeting forever,’ and we have. We’re gonna always have to meet because time brings about change. The population is changing. We need new leadership who understand the burden that you have been bearing. And you’ve got to communicate that to them and then get a response.”
— Black male, 50, Richmond