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Friday, October 15, 2021

Shackleford: Why give us breadcrumbs when we deserve the whole loaf?

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While we have spent a great deal of the last year moving forward in our pursuit for equity, we have also struggled with maintaining the momentum and holding people and agencies accountable.

When I speak of accountability, I speak of ensuring the things we request are delivered in a timely manner and with the necessary resources.

Which brings me to the most recent Equity Data Portal, presented by the governor, that is incredibly lacking in substance. This portal took more than a year to be published and there is a significant lack of information. First, the Equity Data Portal showed a lack of collaboration between the Governor’s Office and the existing commissions already present conducting the majority of this work.

Currently we have the Indiana Commission on the Social Status of Black Males, Interagency Council on Black & Minority Health, Indiana Commission for Women, Indiana Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs, Native American Indian Affairs Commission, and the Indiana Minority Health Coalition. These groups have laid the foundation for community advocacy and addressing disparities with many being commissioned by the legislature and the governor, yet still missing the mark.

Second, the overall report seemed to fall short of what is needed to truly assess minority issues and develop an action plan. The infant and mortality rate for Black women is abysmal, COVID-19 absolutely ravaged the Black and brown community, and schools are failing at an alarming rate in the state of Indiana. The Equity Data Portal does not fully articulate these and other racial disparities in the state.

Third, the portal totally ignored the 2020 State of Indiana Disparity Study results of our minority, women and veteran business enterprises. The report concluded minority- and woman-owned businesses considered together exhibited a substantial disparity for Indiana Department of Administration (IDOA) contracts and procurements, indicating that those businesses only received 71 cents for every dollar one would expect them to receive based on their availability for that work. The disparity analysis further revealed that every state educational institution had a substantial disparity for this combined group. In the past, IDOA has done the best it could to meet our diversity supplier goals, but they cannot do it alone. The state has to lead by example and ensure we are practicing what we preach.

As a legislator and commission member, I highly recommend monthly meetings with the commissions to develop a statewide plan of action to improve these oversights and fully implement the recommendations from the disparity study. It is my sincere hope that this plan involves the necessary funding toward these commissions with a legislative plan on helping them succeed.

Additionally, I expect more informative data from the Equity Data Portal; we need to paint a picture of all the disparities that exist within our state, not just a broad stroke. And lastly, with the establishment of the state’s first chief equity, inclusion and opportunity officer, there can be no more excuses for giving breadcrumbs in our pursuit of equity and justice.

State Rep. Robin Shackleford represents Indiana House District 98, is Indiana Black Legislative Caucus chair, POWER Women Caucus vice chair and Public Health Committee ranking minority member. Contact her at H98@iga.in.gov.

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