United Way forms coalition to advance racial equity in Dallas | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

United Way forms coalition to advance racial equity in Dallas

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, alongside corporate and nonprofit leaders, has launched a coalition to bring transformative change, combating systemic racism and inequity in the Dallas area. In doing so, we and our partners hope to make Dallas a model for other cities nationwide when it comes to racial equity.

During the September Aspire United 2030 community goals launch, United Way’s president and CEO Jennifer Sampson announced a new partnership among the Dallas Citizens Council (DCC), the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to advance racial equity in Dallas—a bold goal whose time has more than come.

On the heels of completing an expansive study of the systemic racism and racial disparities that exist nationwide, BCG has made a $1 million commitment for the next three years to support United Way in this racial equity work. “We are excited to build on their efforts together to champion and support place-based solutions in Dallas,” Sampson said.

This collaboration will bring together civic, business and philanthropic leaders in a multiyear effort to catalyze broad and lasting social change in our community.

“Our goal is to serve as an exemplar to other cities, enabling them to replicate our work to build a more equitable America,” Sampson added.

Leaders from the coalition recently came together for a panel on Uniting for Equity to expand upon the coalition’s vision for change—and the role businesses, individuals and nonprofits will play.

A groundwater approach

Following the Racial Equity Institute framework, we’re looking at this from a groundwater approach—the idea that if half the fish in a lake are dead, it’s probably not about the fish. You would analyze the lake. And if there are multiple lakes nearby and half the fish are dead, you would analyze the groundwater. We live in a racially structured society, which causes racial inequity.

In Dallas, racial inequity goes back to its founding when, in 1841, it was officially designated a permanent settlement for whites, cementing the belief that the native Caddo people were “less than.” That attitude has continued through the Jim Crow era of the 1870s-1960s, and all the way through to the 2000s, when the War on Terror created a generalized climate of impunity for police, allowing continued police brutality against Blacks.

“It’s long past time that we as a city and region looked seriously at this issue, and take strong, measurable steps to bring about the racial equity we lack,” said Erin George, BCG Managing Director and Partner and United Way Dallas board member. “Our coalition’s ambition is to bring together the amazing organizations that have been at the forefront of this effort in our city for years and leverage our collective scale to make true systemic change.”

According to the City of Dallas Equity Indicators Report in 2019, our “lakes” of inequity run across economic opportunity, education, neighborhoods and infrastructure, justice and government, and public health.

Key takeaways from that report included:

  • Blacks and Hispanics face significant barriers to economic mobility across all indicators.
  • The largest inequities exist in the rate of employment in high-paying jobs, and in the rate of poverty among employed individuals.

Dallas’ history is filled with oppressive policies and practices. And Dallas was recently ranked 272 out of 274 cities in a study by the Urban Institute of overall economic and racial inclusion.


A roadmap for change

North Texas will not be a vibrant, thriving community until we address the systemic barriers and racial inequities that are part of our history.

The coalition will develop groundbreaking and creative interventions toward our commitment to racial equity, emphasizing long-term and city-scale efforts. “We will hold ourselves accountable to progress, developing a roadmap with clear roles and responsibilities, and continually measuring our collective impact,” Sampson said.


Initial key objectives for the multiyear equity coalition include: 

  • Educating the community, including civic, business and philanthropic leaders on the facts and what is needed to drive impact.
  • Aligning on a data-driven plan that is clear and actionable.
  • Executing an aligned plan, including influencing allocation of funding to be spent on the highest-impact initiatives.
  • Reporting on impact across strategic initiatives using data.

This equity effort will live under Aspire United 2030, United Way Dallas’ community plan for transformative change in the areas of education, income and health over the next decade. “Racial disparities are clearly articulated through our Aspire United 2030 goals, with commitment to achieving equity—focusing efforts, resources, and advocacy to close gaps and end systemic racism,” Sampson said.

During the Uniting for Equity panel, leaders from both the Dallas Citizens Council and Dallas Regional Chamber emphasized the opportunity—and necessity—for businesses to play an active role in advancing equity.

“We believe that together, United Way Dallas, the Dallas Citizens Council, the Dallas Regional Chamber and BCG can move this work forward significantly,” Kelvin Walker, CEO of the Dallas Citizens Council said. “By focusing on equity, we will create inclusive growth. But this is not a 90-day project plan. We must constantly focus on this and change the DNA of who we really are. It takes time, but will be worth it in the end.”

“We believe it’s about doing good for every business, because diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to the success of every business—and it’s good for our community,” added Dale Petroskey, president and CEO of the Dallas Regional Chamber. “There is a real appetite for meaningful change and for long-term commitment to these efforts.”

Learn more about Aspire United 2030 and how you can get involved to ensure all North Texans, regardless of race or ZIP code, have the opportunity and access to develop their full potential.

This article was published on: Nov 16, 2020