Presidential Executive Order on Racial Equity recognizes the importance of geography

Several times during the 2020 Presidential campaign I noticed that one candidate would use the term “equity” (versus equality) when discussing issues related to racial justice. On January 20, 2021, shortly after his inauguration, President Biden signed “Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government.” Significantly the order references the importance of geography in understanding inequity and to advance social justice.

This executive order aligns with the work of King County and other agencies to advance Equity and Social Justice and the use of geographic information science and technology for ESJ. The executive order defines “underserved communities” as referring to “…populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life…” The act lays out guidelines to assess “…equity with respect to race, ethnicity, religion, income, geography, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability.”

King County has had a leadership role for many years in applying an equity and social justice lens to its work and leading with equity. The County’s Office of Equity and Social Justice provides overall guidance and coordination.

King County IT GIS has likewise had a leadership role in applying a geographic lens to equity issues and developing GIS-based tools to advance social justice. King County IT GIS was recognized twice in 2020 for its leadership role in applying GIS for ESJ—first by an Esri Special Achievement in GIS Award and then by a National States Geographic Information Council Geospatial Catalyst Award.

The January 20 Presidential Executive Order will hopefully reinforce the ESJ work that King County does and facilitate awareness of the key role of geography and geographic information science and technology in issues related to equity and social justice.

If you are interested in learning more, consider registering for the the half-day Introduction to GIS for Equity and Social Justice workshop. Also, you can read more in the GIS for ESJ Best Practices document recently published by the American Geographical Society Ethical GEO Initiative.

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