January 27, 2021

Civil Rights Commission REIA Toolkit is Designed to Confront Bias, Systemic Racism

To the Editor:

Following the murder of George Floyd on May 25, Princeton Council declared racism a public health crisis through the passage of resolution 20-195 on June 8, 2020. Council noted the need for “assessments of internal policies and procedures to ensure racial equity” in all municipal work. Over the summer and fall, a Civil Rights Commission (CRC) ad hoc committee worked diligently on creating a Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) Toolkit, which was presented to the Council on December 14, 2020, to a positive reception. As suggested at the Council meeting, we look forward to the Toolkit being presented to municipal department heads.

The ad hoc committee was comprised of two community partners, Afsheen Shamsi, a former CRC commissioner and Linda Oppenheim, a Not In Our Town Princeton board member, as well as two CRC commissioners, Jean Durbin and Surinder Sharma, and myself, CRC chair. During the process, the committee consulted with Joanne Parker, Fern and Larry Spruill, Karen Hernandez-Granzen, and Anastasia Mann. 

Discrimination is rooted in unchecked bias. Racial Equity Impact Statements (REIS) are one way of addressing the implicit bias that exists in everyday work. The REIA Toolkit is a series of questions or REIS designed to confront bias and systemic racism. It is meant to promote exploration of how proposed or existing budgets, programs, activities, policies, guidelines, or procedures will impact different racial and ethnic groups. The REIA Toolkit can be found on the municipal website at princeton.nj.gov.

Though we are proud to live in a town where racial equity is an officially stated community value, there is much work to be done. According to the NJ Institute for Social Justice, white people in the United States have 10 times the median wealth of Black people, while in New Jersey the difference is more than 50 times greater. The Princeton population presents a similar picture.   

An essential component of the REIA Toolkit is community input, particularly in the development of projects, programs, policies, and ordinances. The CRC will continue to keep equity on the municipality’s radar and promote use of the REIA Toolkit.  We look forward to your support. To contact the Civil Rights Commission, please visit the municipal website.

Tommy Parker
Chair, Princeton Civil Rights Commission
Birch Avenue