NLC's Commitment to Race and History

Our 1997 Local Officials Guide, Governing Diverse Communities - A Focus on Race and Ethnic Relations, established four themes still evident in our work today: Leadership skills that enable local officials to bridge racial divides and represent the hopes and values of a diverse community, initiative to participate in open and honest dialogues about race and racism, problem-solving strategies that include diverse constituents in the process, and affirmation of the role of city hall in overcoming barriers and creating a diverse municipal workforce representative of the community it serves.

In 1999, the NLC Advisory Council issued, Undoing Racism: Fairness and Justice in America's Cities and Towns. The report was the ninth annual Futures Report. The Council held several meetings across the country and concluded, "...racism still stands in the way of the full realization of the American dream." The report offered questions for local elected officials to consider in their policymaking decisions. The result was groundbreaking initiating conversations that are just beginning to take place today on topics such as "white privilege".

In 2000, NLC published our 16th Annual Research Report on America's Cities, The State of America's Cities, which surveyed a random sample of over 1,300 local elected officials (representing cities with populations greater than 10,000) from the NLC database. The report included a frank assessment of race relations during which 43% of respondents reported race/ethnic relations as a major or moderate concern.

With the release of our 2003 Local Officials Guide, Making Progress Toward Issues of Race-Goals and Processes for Citizen Involvement, we realized it was time to help local elected officials take stock of previous efforts to address race and preview best practices across the country. This was necessary in order to develop a meaningful and impactful citizen engagement program that improves race/ethnic relations and builds a strong and inclusive community.

For NLC, our drumbeat to advance racial equity in local government has been steady, and so has the need for resources and training for our membership.

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