In 2020, the Juneau Assembly approved the creation of a “systemic racism review committee,” which was tasked with analyzing ordinances and alerting the assembly to any possible racist undertones or unforeseen racist outcomes. This work is done before the assembly takes any actions or holds public hearings on an ordinance, although this process can be overridden if deemed necessary.

In originally approving the committee, the assembly admitted that “systemic racism” is often covert, tricky to define and sometimes difficult to objectively identify.

Critics of systemic racism theory argue that it is intentionally ill defined and vague in order to undermine ideas, people and legislation without having to show any actual, objective instances of racism. In essence, one can be guilty of promoting systemic racism without even knowing it. The idea is often used as a political weapon to discredit any number of individuals or organizations.

The Juneau law states that systemic racism may be found in “all aspects of society, including but not limited to education, criminal justice, elections, housing and political power.”

Given the seemingly endless situations, subtle expressions and locations where “systemic racism” might lurk, the review committee now wants to expand the size and scope of its investigative powers.

During a Nov. 16 Systemic Racism Committee meeting, several members began brainstorming how the group might become more proactive. Rather than merely vetting legislation once it is nearly complete, they want the power to proactively initiate their own investigations into any number of borough systems, practices and procedures.

Essentially, the committee seeks to expand its influence beyond mere ordinances and code issues. They also want a say in how various boards run, what the budget looks like, how key positions are filled and what personnel rules govern the daily workings of local politics.

They also want to keep an eye on all other committees and boards to ensure these bodies are not consciously or subconsciously contributing to systemic racism.

The Systemic Racism Committee continued working on its proposal during a Feb. 22 meeting with the aim of eventually bringing it to the Juneau Assembly for final approval.

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Juneau’s systemic racism committee wants vast monitoring powers over local government

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.