‘The root of the problem is white supremacy’: Illinois county uses CRT-based org to revamp criminal justice system

Justice in Illinois’ most populous county will now be filtered through a racist lens following a partnership between Cook County’s Justice Advisory Council (JAC) and an organization that will “diagnose” how it is “structured to uphold white supremacy culture” in an effort to end “systemic racism.”

After receiving a $500,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “to build upon existing efforts to address racial and ethnic inequities in the county’s local justice system,” the county announced on Jan. 24, “Cook County Government, specifically the Office of the Chief Judge and the Justice Advisory Council, will work alongside Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism (Chicago ROAR) to lead… racial equity work.”

Chicago ROAR embraces with passion the tenants of Critical Race Theory (CRT), an ideology that insists all white people are, by virtue of the color of their skin, inherently privileged and racist.

A regional branch of CrossroadsAntiracism.org, Chicago ROAR’s “Vision” statement declares, “In recognition that white supremacy dehumanizes people and objectifies the natural world, Crossroads’ antiracist vision is no less than the restoration of all creation.

According to Cook County, the MacArthur grant “is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), a $300 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and address racial and ethnic disparities in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.”

The county has participated in the Safety and Justice Challenge since 2015.

“Cook County is one of only four jurisdictions nationwide selected for the award and participation in the SJC’s Racial Equity Cohort,” the press release explains. “Each Equity Cohort member is charged with promoting racial and ethnic equity in the criminal justice system by authentically engaging community and centering the lived experiences of those most impacted by the justice system.”

Cook County continues:

Cook County’s work in the Racial Equity Cohort will center on direct and meaningful connection between internal actors in the justice system and community members, trained as Equity Cohort fellows. Fellows will be residents from Cook County communities most impacted by violence and crime and disproportionately represented in local courts, jails and prisons.

Recruited with the assistance the Justice Advisory Council’s network of community based-provider organizations, the fellows will work alongside designees from the county’s criminal justice agencies.

Chicago ROAR will provide customized technical training on institutional antiracism and anti-oppression to the Fellows who will, in turn, lead facilitated discussions to engage in the work of addressing persistent racial disparities within the system. The goal of this work is to develop and normalize a more human-centered and equitable system of justice.

Chicago ROAR’s services include “race equity audits.”

A nine- to 12-month process, the audits aim to “assess – quantitatively and qualitatively – how an organization’s programs, products, services, constituent relationships, organizational structure, policies, and its history create and maintain a culture where systemic racism thrives despite its stated commitments to inclusion.”

Chicago ROAR will “identify and recommend changes to an organization’s culture and structures” and will “set it on a path to become a fully inclusive, multicultural and antiracist institution.”

“Our analysis and responsive training will equip Equity Cohort fellows to actively engage with system partners on the issues that impact their communities,” said Derrick Dawson, program Coordinator for Chicago ROAR. “To bring about authentic and effective change, we need to start with a shared language and understanding of the nature of systemic racism.”

“Bringing more equity and representation into our justice system has been long awaited by our communities, especially our most disinvested and impacted communities,” said Kim Ambrose-Davis, Community Engagement Coordinator for JAC. “The Equity Cohort is an unprecedented initiative that has the potential to be transformative for our residents and communities. We’re excited to help lead this work and to see where it takes us.”

Chicago ROAR’s “theory of change,” as described by Crossroads, “begins with understanding the root of the problem is white supremacy, enshrined in and reproduced by our systems and institutions.”

“White supremacy produces a culture of domination that conditions systems, institutions, and people to uphold and legitimize whiteness and its ways as normal, standard, moral, and universal,” the organization states. “This conditioning disproportionately harms people of color, normalizing a culture of violence, and disproportionately advantages white people. It harms all life on earth by the violence of commodification.”

“We understand white supremacy is broad, encompassing many manifestations of oppression,” it says, “and we approach our antiracism work intersectionally.”

According to one of Chicago ROAR’s trainers, Emily Drew, white people can be “damaging.”

Fox News Digital (FND) reports that a description of one of Drew’s recent speaking engagements read, “How can we who are White show up as more effective and less damaging participants in struggles to interrupt racism in our community? How can white people engage in efforts to dismantle racism in ways that do not reproduce or place unfair burdens upon people of color to be our teachers?”

“This conversation,” it continued, “is for white people to reflect together on what it means to do our work as white people, which includes taking responsibility for one another, educating ourselves, and coming to view other white people as our partners—not competition—in developing antiracist identity.”

“While the Safety and Justice Challenge has been successful in reducing local jail populations, it has also taught us that this alone will not eliminate racial disparities in the criminal justice system,” said Laurie Garduque, the MacArthur Foundation’s Director of Criminal Justice. “By pairing the leadership of people most impacted by mass incarceration with the expertise of government partners, we hope this cohort of jurisdictions will challenge systemic racism in our justice systems and create policies and practices to sustain long-term change.”

Republished with permission from American Wire News Service


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