Lately, I have been thinking about the NYC Racial Justice Commission and the hard work that went into their recent report. Members of the Commission have been spreading the word about their ongoing fight for civil rights. Recently, Hazel Dukes, civil rights leader, NAACP national board member, and NYC resident, wrote about why this Commission is New York’s best opportunity to make systemic, anti-racist change in the city’s Charter. Below is an excerpt of some of her thoughts.
“In June, I spoke to the NYC Racial Justice Commission about many ongoing social justice issues, most importantly, how civic engagement is more critical to moving civil rights and racial justice forward today.
New York City needs laws and policies that work to advance racial equity. And while some of these policies were on the ballot this year—in the form of same-day voter registration, no-excuse vote by mail, and the reformation of our redistricting process—they did not pass.
Systemic racism is an insidious opponent, one that can be conquered by the community if the power structures causing harm are identified and dismantled. The next few years will be critical for the recovery of communities of color from the economic, health, and educational consequences of the pandemic. However, the NYC Racial Justice Commission gives me hope that our city can begin to dismantle structural racism embedded in government so that we can reach a fair, just, and equitable foundation where everyone has a chance at living a thriving, full life.
The Commission’s mission is historic. I’m honored that the Commission heeded the recommendation of myself and other elders in the community to truly listen to the needs of New Yorkers, as evidenced in their “NYC for Racial Justice: An Interim Report from the Racial Justice Commission Staff” report. I’ve read the report, and in the voices of my fellow New Yorkers, I read injustices and cries for change that are all too familiar.
The Racial Justice Commission has committed to addressing broad, structural issues that harm people of color in our city’s constitution, the NYC Charter. Although the Commission’s ballot proposals are not yet final, we need not wait to encourage our families, friends, and neighbors to get involved and learn about the power they have to solidify justice in our laws. When the Commission finalizes the proposals, city and community leaders will only have months to inform the public, so we must begin now. It is our responsibility—government, community leaders, and residents—to educate, engage, and unlock the potential of each eligible voter in New York City.
So let us continue to learn about systemic change taking shape in our city by visiting www.racialjustice.cityofnewyork.us. Don’t forget to register to vote and get your friends to register. And next election day, show up to support racial justice in our city’s laws.”
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.