Committee for Greater LA proposes major systemic reforms to advance racial justice; extensive USC/UCLA research lays out the corrosive, costly effects of systemic racism on the region

LOS ANGELES, CA — In a report issued today, No Going Back: Together for an Equitable and Inclusive Los Angeles, the Committee for Greater LA is proposing a sweeping regional agenda for system change. Rooted in new data and analysis, the report attacks systemic racism at the root, identifying the policies and institutions that were designed to oppress, exclude and marginalize people of color for centuries and lays out a roadmap for transformation centered in racial equity.

The independent report, a collaboration of the Committee for Greater LA, USC’s Equity Research Institute and UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs and funded by philanthropy, includes 10 guiding principles addressing areas from housing, economic justice and mental and physical health to youth voice, immigration, and the role of the nonprofit sector. Those accompany dozens of major policy recommendations ranging from establishing high-speed internet as a civil right; promoting “California citizenship” to ensure equal access to services for all residents, regardless of immigration status; and a regional Housing-for-All strategy to end homelessness in Los Angeles, among many more. In addition to No Going Back’s stark moral charge to repair an unequal society, its practical dimensions serve as a radical economic development plan that would restore the more than $300+ billion in annual GDP that Los Angeles loses every year due to systemic racial disparities, as calculated by the Equity Research Institute at USC.

“Many of us have spent our careers enabling broken, racist systems, and this moment calls us to create something better,” said Miguel Santana, chair of the Committee for Greater LA. “This committee’s research clearly illustrates that the old status quo was failing millions of Angelenos in terms of health and housing, education and employment, jails and policing, with the disparities falling along clear racial lines. We can’t go back to the way things were before. We need a more inclusive and equitable new normal.”

The USC/UCLA research team’s key findings illuminate the legacy of decades of intentional policies that have excluded and marginalized communities of color, especially Black people:

Inequality where we work. Nearly half of whites hold lower-risk jobs not classified as essential that require less contact with people, while Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islanders are especially over-concentrated in high-contact jobs, as are Black and Latino workers. The intersection of  COVID with these disparities led to a Black death rate double that of white people and a Latino death rate now higher, and the highest for Asian Pacific Islanders at three times that of white people.

Inequality where we learn. 39% and 37% of Latino & Black school-age children, respectively, lack computer and high-speed internet at home — just one metric of inequality in a system where African-American, American Indian, and Latino students have the lowest graduation rates, the highest dropout rates, and the highest representation among foster children, English Language Learners, student with disabilities and experiencing homelessness, and chronic absenteeism.

Inequality because of our origins. Eighteen percent of L.A. County residents are either undocumented or living with a family member who is. About 200,000 children have mixed-status parents, making them ineligible for federal relief through COVID stimulus programs.

No Going Back is filled with similar findings, ranging from gaps in health, income, wealth and housing, to disparities in the justice system that affect Black and Latino people harshly and people experiencing homelessness even more.

“We can’t let our sense of what’s possible be limited to what we’ve been able to do so far,” said committee member Fred Ali, president and CEO of the Weingart Foundation. “Philanthropy can be the laboratory for an agenda to overturn racial injustice, challenge white supremacy and nurture equity. It can also build support for new funding streams and new governance structures. Making real change requires courage. But going back to the policies that got us to this point is not an option.”

The 10 guiding principles that structure that agenda are:

  1. Address anti‐Black racism in all its forms
  2. Build an economy that centers those who have been left behind and excluded in future strategies
  3. Enhance the physical and mental health systems that can support communities and individuals living with the trauma of systemic neglect and oppression
  4. Create housing for all and end unsheltered homelessness
  5. Ensure access, mobility, and voice for immigrants regardless of status
  6. Support education access for all children and all communities
  7. Celebrate and support youth leadership and empowerment
  8. Strengthen the non-profit sector as a key part of civil society
  9. Develop both community power and accompanying metrics to hold systems accountable
  10. Promote leadership and alignment for equity across business, community, philanthropy, and multiple levels of government

Personal stories drawn from focus group discussions with a wide range of Los Angeles County residents run through No Going Back, illustrating those principles and the policy recommendations that follow them.

No Going Back was written by Manuel Pastor of USC and Gary Segura of UCLA. The findings in the report synthesize new research with preexisting data to illuminate the hidden structures of how Los Angeles fails so many communities. The solutions it offers will advance racial equity, increase accountability, and spark a broad civic conversation about L.A.’s future.

“The COVID-19 disease has revealed our underlying illness: too many are at risk because of structural racism, income inequality, and our broken immigration system,” said Manuel Pastor, the director of the USC Equity Research Institute. “The current crisis has reminded us of a basic public health principle – to protect ourselves, we need to protect everyone – and that should be our policy guide going forward. The good news: Los Angeles, at long last, is ready to attack these issues head-on and grassroots community organizations are ready to lead, shape, and sustain the change we need.”

“This is uncharted territory,” said Gary Segura,  Dean of the Luskin School of Public Affairs at UCLA. “We can’t use the structures of the past as a basis for the future. We need new systems, better accountability, and a clear vision of the Los Angeles that we want to become.”

Finally, No Going Back includes a 15-chapter policy report. The dozens of policy recommendations within provide policymakers, community-based organizations and engaged residents with a comprehensive platform for replacing a broken system with a just society at every level of government.

“The time is now to forego lip service to equality and policies rooted in inequality,” said Jacqueline Waggoner, vice president and Southern California market leader of Enterprise Community Partners. “There are encouraging signs of greater awareness and widespread willingness to confront the racism embedded in our systems. There is a new understanding of how income inequality and racial discrimination threatens the health and well-being of our communities, and there are courageous, talented leaders emerging from community-based organizations guiding us forward. The No Going Back blueprint equips us to create solutions for a greater LA that includes everyone.”

To realize such a massive overhaul of the status quo, the Committee’s next phase includes:

  1. Building awareness and consensus, by engaging dozens of stakeholders in conversation about the report and the need for systemic outcome-driven change;
  2. Research and prioritizing policies, including additional analysis to identify which recommendations to take on first, estimated costs, and who has the power to enact them;
  3. Advocacy for change, by developing strategies and investing in an organizational infrastructure;
  4. Amplifying and supporting community-based movements; and
  5. Moving hearts and minds to build community empathy and the will for change, through artistic expression.

The Committee invites the entire community, including policy makers and candidates for elected offices to join us in making the #NoGoingBackLA promise–a commitment to build a more equitable and inclusive Los Angeles–by signing up at nogoingback.la.

The Committee for Greater LA comprises a diverse group of civic and community leaders and a joint USC/UCLA research team, backed by local philanthropy, who came together to address the racial disparities that the COVID pandemic exposed. In the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the subsequent nationwide protests, its focus expanded to encompass a broader understanding of systemic racism. Over the past five months, drawing on new research and personal testimony, the Committee assembled a comprehensive picture of the massive racial disparities and economic disparities that pervade the region’s interconnected social systems, and a vision of a comprehensive policy agenda to build a more equitable Los Angeles for all.