What is Fairfax County doing to address race in the workplace?

Our #TheQandA team reached out to learn more about One Fairfax and if local minority organizations feel it’s effective.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — What are local governments doing to address race in the workplace?

Many viewers reached out to our #TheQandA team to share how your companies are addressing race discussions after we reported on how traditional diversity programs are addressing differences but not commonalities.

One viewer that reached out to us is Michelle Breckenridge. She is an employee of the Fairfax County government. 

Breckenridge said she’s actively involved in the county’s program called One Fairfax — which she feels is really helpful in facilitating race discussions. So WUSA9 reached out to learn more about One Fairfax and if local minority organizations feel it’s effective.

Karla Bruce is the Chief Equity Officer for Fairfax County. She’s in charge of overseeing the One Fairfax initiative.

“It’s a commitment by Fairfax County and Fairfax County Public Schools to consider equity in all of our planning and decision making,” says Bruce. “The role of Chief Equity Officer is really about supporting our organizational commitment to consider equity through training, through community engagement [and] through really taking a systemic analysis of how race is impacting outcomes.”

When WUSA9 spoke to Bruce, she had just completed a two-hour training for county staff who are taking on the role of equity ambassadors. The ambassadors will be training other county staff on equity solutions across agencies. One of those ambassadors is Breckenridge.

“They taught us, for example of one strategy called ACT,” said Bruce. “It gave us a simple acronym that was easy to remember. A. C. T, which means affirm, counter and transform. The affirm part of that acronym is about listening to the person that’s talking to you about where they are. Because everyone is in a different place on the spectrum on discussions about race. And then, listening to their concerns or their perspective, and then countering it with what we know and history and other perspectives in an effort to move them closer to a more equitable viewpoint. And then the goal is to transform their perspective to one that would add them to the list of folks who are working to create a more equitable society.”

Luis Aguilar is the Virginia Director for We Are Casa — a nonprofit organization in Fairfax that advocates for the rights of community members. Aguilar says that while the One Fairfax program has great intentions, there is more work to be done in order to consider the program a success. Including affecting change among policymakers.

“With the immigrant community, we see for example, that there is no policy protections, at the county level, that would prohibit any county employee from sharing that information with ICE,” says Aguilar. “[They’re] saying well we want the Latino community to come in and use some of the services so that they don’t get sick or come and get free testing and clinics. Well, if the Latino community does not trust the county. How will they do that? And to trust the county, you have to ensure that the county is maintaining your information securely, that they do not even have the option to share this information and to ensure that it is an equitable counting which not only this information by your well-being is being respected.”

One Fairfax official said it doesn’t create policy but helps organizations understand their implicit bias. They say they are working with various county departments, including police, to understand how policies and practices may be inequitably affecting different populations.

To learn more about One Fairfax and its mission, click here

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