Buncombe County commissioners pass plan to address racism, disparities

North Carolina
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina county has adopted a plan aimed at reducing racism and racial disparities in multiple areas, ranging from higher death rates among Black babies to higher arrest rates among minority adults.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to pass a racial equity plan that calls for measurable improvements in the health, education, income, criminal justice outcomes and other experiences of Black residents, the Asheville Citizen Times reported.

The vote by six Democrats and one Republican follows the county’s 2020 declarations that racism is a public health and safety crisis and that the county should join the nearby city of Asheville in giving reparations to Black residents for slavery, discrimination and racially motivated killings.

Democratic Commissioner Al Whitesides, the first African American to serve on the commission, called the plan the best of many he had seen.

“When you think of the contributions that we have made, the conventions that were taken away from us, and when you see that we don’t have the generational wealth that we should have, at least let’s start now making up for some of it,” Whitesides said.

The plan is to start by assessing the disparities that exist. It then names 18 areas where improvements should be made and assigns county departments or other groups to be accountable for them.

Last week, the Asheville City Council approved a budget amendment to pull $2.1 million from city land purchased in the 1970s as part of the city’s urban renewal programs that took apart Black communities. The city council also adopted a proclamation declaring June 19 as Juneteenth, the date which marks the end of slavery in the U.S.

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