C. Marie Taylor is president and chief executive of Leadership Montgomery.
We need to embrace the Montgomery County government’s racial equity efforts, and we need to hold county officials accountable.
As a recent “Community Conversation” in Montgomery County showed, tensions run deep. You cannot eliminate more than 400 years of structural and institutional racism overnight or even over a couple of years. It is a crucial process that takes time, commitment and buy-in from all involved. It is easy to dismiss government as merely “checking the box.” However, if we give in to the dismissive, then when does the path forward begin?
Understanding equity can be confusing and triggering as it scares all of us to face the unknown and requires us to imagine what seems impossible. What I know is that every day, people dream and achieve the impossible; it’s my definition of leadership. In contrast, the mere definition of racial equity is a starting point. Dare we dream of a day when race no longer is a determinant of someone’s outcomes — whether they be economic, health, education, etc. So, where do we start? We start with conversations and training. They provide opportunities to normalize the conversation and allow people to come together as necessary to establish a common language and an opening for change.
Montgomery County is wonderful, although not without problems. It is imperative that we educate leaders across all sectors (particularly those who hold the most power and potential for impact) and develop a historically accurate understanding and language to form the context of racial equity requirements to disrupt the current narrative. Montgomery County needs strong and engaged leadership to address the disparities and embark on the work it will take to eliminate them.
When the distribution of power and decision-making is shared among all stakeholders, you have racial equity and you have an outline for a clear path forward. Leadership Montgomery, a nonprofit organization based in Rockville, is committed to helping individuals, communities, organizations and systems work toward this path by offering racial equity workshops and educational programming.
Our Racial Equity Action Leadership Inclusion program provides organizations and businesses with the opportunity to design programs focused on examining their own policies and practices to reimagine them through a racial equity lens.For individuals, we offer workshops on historical and structural racism. We believe these workshops are a first step toward normalizing conversations about race, racism and equity.
We are leveraging our platform and relationships across sectors to push leaders to do more. In the past year, we have moved in lockstep with the county, coordinating its trainings and debrief sessions, seeking grant funds to provide free trainings for staff and the community at large, facilitating community conversations and checking in with executive leadership on progress toward legislation. We will continue to keep asking tough questions and offering resources that allow elected officials and their offices to walk the talk because it is part of our definition of leadership.
We need more engaged leaders. We need more courageous conversations and trainings on the effects of racism and its pervasiveness in our community. But, most important, we need to understand that the train has left the station and that is a good thing. Let’s just make sure that we hold each other accountable and disrupt the current narrative.