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2021 Will Be the Year of Anti-Racist Action Say Riverside Groups

Both Riverside County and the city of Riverside declared racism a public health crisis during the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in 2020. KVCR’s Megan Jamerson reports, several anti-racist groups are now working to help turn these declarations into lasting change.

Janice Rooths, an independent consultant focused on racial equity issues, has this definition of anti-racism:

“It is being actively involved in trying to dismantle racism and racist systems and policies and not just letting things go,” said Rooths.

On an interpersonal level, anti-racism means speaking up when someone shares racist ideas or jokes. On a community level, it means collaborating to ensure anti-racist policies are implemented at the city and county level. Simply saying “I’m not racist,” is not enough.

“You have to look at everything with a racial equity lens and in many ways kind of an anti-black racism lens," said Rooths. "Because most of what’s happened in our country with policies and laws and practices had a lot to do with excluding African Americans in particular from having a home, job, [and] almost anything.”

This is the work she does through Anti-Racist Riverside, a coalition she helped found in 2020. Rooths, who was recognized as a champion for diversity and inclusion by Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson in January, was instrumental in helping the city of Riverside craft its resolution against racism last year.

The coalition hosts regular virtual conversations open to the public, and they are working with the city to implement anti-racist policies. Things as simple as not letting the limits of public transportation stop affordable housing efforts in higher income neighborhoods.

“So if a bus doesn’t go there but there is land where you could build affordable housing then you need to route a bus there,” said Rooths.

On the county level, the Center Against Racism and Trauma, or CART for short, is working to help them to turn their resolution against racism into action. 

Corey Jackson, a trained social worker and self-described social justice warrior, co-Founded CART. The idea was to create the Inland Empire’s first anti-racist institution focused on local issues so people wouldn’t have to leave the region to find resources.

“So our goal is to tackle two things," said Jackson. "Systemic racism but also the culture of racism that upholds systemic racism.”

Jackson an elected school board member who is active in Riverside’s chapter of the NAACP, said he would like the institution to help raise the next generation of anti-racists. It also provides resources to the community to keep the dialogue going, and focuses on policies and trainings to root out systemic racism. Central to the local anti-racist movement is a spirit of love and humanity said Jackson.

“We have to believe in humanity first, before our ethnicity before our religion, before the country we came from, before anything else," said Jackson. "We don’t have to teach people how to be human. We have to teach people how not to be inhumane.”

And it will take persistence, said Jackson, to bring true equity. Which is why CART uses the horned African symbol of vigilance, the Akoben, in the design of its logo. It’s this state of being, said Jackson, that will be needed to move from the year of declarations against racism in 2020 to a year of action in 2021.

To learn more about Anti-Racism Riverside and their virtual public events email antiracistriverside@gmail.com.

To learn more about CART, including resources and training they offer visit destroyracism.org.