Today marks Juneteenth — dating from June 19, 1865, the holiday is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth is known as Independence Day for African-Americans and is celebrated approximately two weeks before the Fourth of July, the day traditionally known as Independence Day or Freedom Day. But, it is important to remember that on the first Fourth of July, in 1776, not all Americans were free. Juneteenth is a day for celebrate the many accomplishments and contributions of African-American people throughout history, but it is also a day to reflect on the fact that too many people of color are still oppressed and enslaved. It is a day to recommit ourselves to justice and to a future where everyone is truly free.
This Juneteenth feels particularly poignant this year as we wrestle with freshly ignited fury over racial injustice and systemic inequities. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded existing imbalances in our county and disproportionately impacted the health and economic wellbeing of our communities of color. This is why it is more important than ever to make meaningful changes that will give everyone the opportunity to share in the prosperity of San Mateo County.
The Board of Supervisors made 2020 the year to focus on equity. Several months ago, the Board retained the Social Progress Index firm to create an equity index for every census track in San Mateo County.
How does this work? A Social Progress Index quantifies what really matters to people:
Do people have enough to eat and are receiving basic medical care?
Do people feel safe?
Is no one excluded from the opportunity to be a contributing member of society?
The Index helps a community understand how individuals are really living and who is being left behind. With that knowledge, policy-makers can allocate resources to where they are needed most.
This will be the first time any county in the United States has endeavored to do this and it will help provide needed data to make funding and policy decisions through an anti-racist equity lens.
Additionally, we will look for better ways to connect with and expand our local small minority-owned businesses. We are currently developing a strategy to make sure these businesses, especially in these difficult economic times, not only survive but thrive into the future.
The Board president will also soon announce a new “Office of Equity and Social Justice.” This will be an external facing division in the County Manager’s Office that will review through various lenses the development of policy and budgets through equity, social progress and justice.
In the defining moments before us, let us seize on the opportunity to build a better tomorrow — a tomorrow where we confront inequity head on, by using an anti-racist lens to eliminate explicit and implicit racial injustices, inequities, and bias. The May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd was truly a dark day for America. Moving forward, let’s make every day brighter for all and become part of the solution.
Stay safe & healthy,
Warren Slocum Mike Callagy
President County Manager/Clerk of the Board
Board of Supervisors