Marin’s ranking in inequality should be troubling

Updated: Jun 2, 2018

POSTED: 12/16/17, 2:32 PM PST

Author: Noah Griffin

Publication: Marin Independent Journal

Noah Griffin. Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. (Robert Tong/Marin Independent Journal)


We’re No. 1. Marin County’s 89.9 percent turnout in last year’s presidential election, along with a 90.8 percent turnout in 2008 to elect the nation’s first African-American president, were best in the state.

Unemployment in Marin is at 2.9 percent. Figures from 2015 show our median income for couples filing jointly at $133,389. No county scored higher.

In Greenbelt Alliance’s county-by-county comparison of how much land area is protected as parkland and open space, Marin comes in first, with 55.6 percent.

That’s the good news.

The bad news?

We’re No. 1 in racial inequality.

Is that the price we’re willing to pay for geographic liberality; feeling good about ourselves because of where we live and not considering the challenges faced by the least successful of us?

As reported in the IJ recently, Advancement Project California, a civil rights organization funded by the California Endowment, the Rosenberg Foundation and the Sierra Health Foundation looked at “California counties’ performance in seven key areas: democracy, economic opportunity, crime and justice, access to health care, healthy built environments, education and housing.”

The report offered an overview of the racial disparity level and how the county ranks statewide and across key issues. Marin County ranks the first most racially disparate county in California.

Another study, Education Trust-West’s “Majority Report,” provides an extensive look at how the state’s largest ethnic group — Latinos — is faring at every level of California’s education system.

The study concluded that Marin County had the second-highest gap.

Let’s look at housing.

In an interview with former county supervisor Cynthia Murray, now CEO of North Bay Leadership Council, she said: “For a long time, it has not been a well-kept secret that there is a thread of racism and classism in Marin County that has weaved its way through public policy. And certainly in communities being against new housing because of ‘those people.’

“A lack of political will shows two types of failure: Those currently in office, to say that the needs of my constituents are greater than the minority of people who oppose housing and who have that racism, classism bias. There needs to be a strengthening of political will by those showing up and saying this is exactly what we need. You can’t be afraid of being picketed, recalled or receiving nasty letters. Encourage those who aren’t racist and classist to run.”

Community activist Kerry Peirson avers criminal justice, health and more “all go together — race needs to be taken into account beginning with the ethnic composition of your staff. All decisions should be viewed through the prism of this study. I am outraged and embarrassed by the results of this study.”

In education, recent studies by First 5 Marin have shown “by third grade 52 percent of Marin’s African-American students have fallen behind in reading skills, compared to 22 percent of white students. In 2013, 37 percent of Latino and 28 percent of African-American high school students completed courses required for admission into a University of California or California State University campus.”

Julie Nelson, director of the New York- and Berkeley-based Government Alliance on Race and Equity, is on record as saying: “Racial inequities are not natural. For us to change those outcomes, we have to approach this conversation with urgency and make it a priority.”

Addressing the issue of educational inequality, Marin County Superintendent of Schools Mary Jane Burke sees developing “cultural competency” as a goal along with hiring “high-quality teachers and staff which reflect the changing face of the community as a priority.” She understands the necessity for “all students to have classes required for college,” while at the same time notes “steps need to be made by parents to be engaged in their school communities.” Although Burke asserts “much is being done,” she concedes “much, much more needs to be done.”

Noah Griffin of Tiburon is a public affairs consultant, speaker and musical performer. He is a former public member of the IJ’s editorial board.

To read original article posting, click here:


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