This website uses cookies.  Find out more in our Privacy Policy.

Local Leaders Take Action

Local Leaders Take Action to Combat Racism

Local Leaders Take Action to Combat Racism

Agnes Scott College’s Gay Johnson McDougall Center for Global Diversity and Inclusion recently hosted another webinar in their series of “courageous conversations” about race and racism. This past spring, the college joined 23 other colleges and universities around the country in a national effort to eradicate racial hierarchies and eliminate social inequities through the AAC&U Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation project. As a THRT campus, Agnes Scott College plans to partner with local and community groups as well as the campus community to undertake projects that advance transformational racial change, promote racial healing, and erase structural barriers to equity and equal opportunity. 

This discussion featured Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, Commissioner of District 7 of DeKalb County’s Board of Commissioners, Kenneth Coleman, Interim President and CEO of Dekalb Chamber of Commerce, and Patti Garrett, Mayor of the City of Decatur. It was moderated by Yves-Rose Porcena, Agnes Scott’s vice-president for equity and inclusion.

Dr. Porcena opened the webinar by referring to an article recently published in The Atlantic that positioned racism in three degrees: the first degree being direct and overt racist statements and actions, the second degree being ignoring, dismissing, or objecting to anti-racism efforts and actions, and the third being more systemic- the policies and practices of institutions that disadvantage people of color. She asked Commissioner Cochran-Johnson to elaborate on how such policies and practices,  in terms of systemic racism, looked like in county government and what effects she had observed in Dekalb County. Commissioner Cochran-Johnson cited inherent biases and encouraged policy-makers to look inward and examine those assumptions and viewpoints as they did work that had outward effects in their communities.  

President Coleman agreed and discussed how easy to ignore 3rd-degree racism is, that it happens more quietly in the background of our society in the areas of housing, transportation, and access to capital. He urged the importance of actively seeking out these policies and practices and creating better hiring practices, accessible and affordable resources, and developing more inclusive cultures in our workplaces.  

Dr. Porcena asked Mayor Garrett what actions she was taking as a city leader to combat social and racial inequities. Mayor Garrett discussed several city initiatives, dating back to the forming of the “Better Together” effort of the city in 2015. An action plan was formed for equity, inclusion, and community engagement which included bias training for the city’s police department. The Better Together Advisory Committee meets regularly to ensure that the city continues to move the action plan forward. Mayor Garrett also discussed the Affordable Housing Task Force and an inclusionary zoning ordinance that is soon to be reviewed by the city commissioners.  The city also approved over $50K in funding for anti-racism training and education, with recommendations to include joining GARE (the Government Alliance on Race & Equity), anti-racist training for advisory boards and commissions, community listening sessions, and continuing its partnership with Agnes Scott College as a TRHT campus.  She recognized that although Decatur is a progressive community, the city still has continued work to do, stating that “We can take down monuments, but if that’s all we do, it’s not enough.”  

The conversation continued as Commissioner Cochran-Johnson and President Coleman discussed the responsibilities of leaders and community members in dismantling the destructive policies and practices of our cities and community organizations and ensuring that the progress we are making continues to move forward.  

For resources and information, visit the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s website.

Back to top