Delaware took a big step forward in its efforts to address systemic issues of racism in the community, workforce, and our schools during the 2021 session of the General Assembly.
We are proud of the Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative (DRJC) and Delaware United Way efforts to mobilize organizations and leaders across the state to effect change at the highest levels of government by advocating for key policy changes in criminal justice reform and education. Eliminating the policies and practices that allow systemic racism in Delaware is DRJC’s mission. Established in 2015, our work caught fire in the wake of George Floyd’s social justice movement last summer and continues to propel us forward. DRJC is a diverse group of over 200 people and leaders of organizations from across Delaware. Our voice is unified, organized and powerful.
We have been heard, and through the efforts of many, including, but not limited to, Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington, Rep. Frank Cooke, and the Enforcement Accountability Task Force. law, and Senator Marie Pinkney, D-Bear, saw us pass groundbreaking legislation regarding black history education, transparency in law enforcement, sentencing reform and juvenile justice reform.
We had the pleasure of seeing:
- House Bill 198, which requires school districts and charter schools to implement a black history program by the 2022-2023 school year.
- Senate Bill 147, which codifies reasonableness as an objective standard for the use of non-lethal and lethal force and establishes that state of mind is the justification for what a reasonable person would have believed, rather than what the defendant believed. SB 147 also specifies that chokes are considered deadly forces.
- SB 148, which expands the responsibilities of the Division of Civil Rights & Public Trust to review fatal incidents of use of force by law enforcement agencies and review incidents of use of force that resulted in serious bodily injury. In addition, SB 148 requires that the division publish a public report on any incident involving the use of force and that the report include the race of the law enforcement officer who used the force, the race of who the force was used against and whether race was a relevant or motivating factor.
- HB 195, which requires certain police officers and employees of the Department of Corrections and the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families to wear body cameras and record interactions with the public in accordance with regulations to be established by the Council of Police Training.
- SB 15, which increases Delaware’s minimum wage to $ 15 over four years, allowing hard-working Delawarens to better support their families.
We asked the members of the DRJC’s Public Policy Committee to reflect on this last session and look to the future.
Tynetta Brown of Philanthropy Delaware says she is thrilled with the support given to bills that have a huge impact on minority communities and “simply put those conversations deeper on the radar of lawmakers.” Going forward, she would like to see more discussions on grants and how the allocation process can be more transparent, with a greater focus on meeting community needs, improving measures and aligning aid with the cost beneficiaries have to pay to provide vital services.
Dr. Anne Farley of Wilmington-based First State Strategies Consulting says she is encouraged that “the engagement has been engaged and sustained over the long term to tackle difficult issues, entrenched mindsets and acceptance of the business. status quo to propose solutions to systemic problems. racism and discrimination. She also believes that DRJC – and the community – would have had an even greater impact “with the ability to meet in person with legislators and participate in committee hearings.” That said, Dr Farley and the DRJC applaud the efforts and achievements of the General Assembly in 2021.
Henry Smith III, co-chair of the Wilmington Community Advisory Council, is right when he says that we must continue to focus on funding and policies to address the social determinants of health and crime in our state, because addressing them effectively would go a long way to tackle many of the priorities of the DRJC. He says he was disappointed with the “lack of support for black organizations,” saying more pressure was needed to get more funds from the Black Legislative Caucus, the NAACP, the Action Council. interfaith ministers or any other organization supporting black causes.
Going forward, DRJC prioritizes its focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the business community and state agencies. Additionally, opportunities for the future include advocating for paid family medical leave and education reforms that target infrastructure, programming, and funding across our K-12 system.
We need to focus on setting our agenda early, educating and educating legislators, and educating DRJC members on how we can take a greater leadership and advocacy role.
In summary, DRJC has made tremendous progress in this last legislature. But a lot of work remains to be done if we are to effectively address systemic issues of racism within the workforce, our communities and our schools. We invite you to join in our work.
Rick Deadwyler and Yvette Santiago are co-chairs of the Delaware Racial Justice Collaborative Public Policy Committee. You can read more about DRJC here.