The mayor said both the deadly coronavirus pandemic and police-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota have led to heightened emotions in the streets.
“The Band-aid was pulled off the sore with COVID-19 in terms of the disparities, racial disparities in health care,” James said. “But it was further highlighted by the reactions to George Floyd’s death.”
The task force, made up of leaders from the African-American and Hispanic communities, law enforcement, State Attorney’s Office, Public Defender’s Office, and more, will work toward three goals:
- Examine the history of racial and ethnic inequities in West Palm Beach
- Look at best practices to address systemic patterns of racial and ethnic disparities
- Adopt policy changes to improve racial equality
“There’s gonna have to be some difficult, honest, candid conversations going on in those rooms,” James said. “One of the big things is recognizing what we have done or not done in the areas of racial justice.”
James pointed out a 2017 economic study which found that West Palm Beach’s poverty rate was 17%
“I’m sure there are some systemic causes leading to that very high poverty rate. Those are the kinds of things I want the task force to begin digging into to see how we can do better,” James said. “I see this as an opportunity. Were I not African-American, maybe I would not have taken this next step.”
The mayor said the Task Force for Racial and Ethnic Equality will have until Dec. 30 to submit suggestions for how West Palm Beach can improve its race relations.