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Herbert announces Utah compact on racial equity, diversity and inclusion

Posted at 3:26 PM, Dec 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-15 20:08:13-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Governor Gary Herbert has created a compact that pushes the state toward policies that combat racism and provide greater opportunities for Utah's communities of color.

At a ceremony on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol, the governor announced the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. It's a document that will be used as a template for policy and business positions statewide.

It came about after the protests against racism, police brutality and inequality throughout the state and the nation. Gov. Gary Herbert met with Black community leaders and heard personal stories of experiencing racism in Utah and promised policy changes.

"It caused us to have introspection. I know for myself, personally, I’ve had to think back and say what am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?" the governor told the crowd on Tuesday.

As FOX 13 has previously reported, Gov. Herbert and his cabinet have been meeting with leaders of Utah's minority communities and taking classes on recognizing implicit bias. He has also instituted policies designed to combat racism within government.

But the governor promised they were not done, even as his administration winds down.

"It’s not good enough. Wherever we are on this spectrum, we can do better and we should do better," he said.

The Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity and Inclusion sets up five principles that will guide future policy in the state. It has a series of guidelines:

  • Acknowledge racism exists and call it out
  • Invest time and resources to create more opportunities for people of color
  • Advance solutions that allow for equal opportunity and access to education, employment, housing and health care
  • More involvement and inclusion of Utah's many ethnic and racial communities
  • Acknowledge this is a "movement, not a moment"

One of the most high-profile supporters of the compact is former Utah Jazz owner Gail Miller. At Tuesday's ceremony, she called for more inclusion and publicly apologized for past statements she had made.

"A few years ago, I stood on the floor of the arena and declared 'we are not a racist community,'" she said. "I feel inclined to apologize for that today. I have since learned that we are and we need to face it."

The Salt Lake Chamber said it was creating a toolkit for businesses modeled after the compact.

Beyond the push for more inclusion and racial equality, representatives of Utah's minority communities had hope that the words on the paper would translate into policy. Lex Scott, the leader of Black Lives Matter Utah, told FOX 13 she believes the governor stands by the words.

"It is words, but he actually has us meeting every week on a police reform commission where he’s actually enacting new policies. So I do believe his heart on this. I do," Scott said.

Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, said a series of bills are in the works that advance racial equity and policing reforms. She has been working to persuade her Republican colleagues to support them.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, told FOX 13 she is planning a resolution in the 2021 legislative session to declare racism a public health crisis.

"When we start looking at racism in our community and the impact it’s having on our health, it goes hand in hand," Rep. Hollins said, referring to not only the stress but disparate health care treatment options.

The last time Utah declared something a public health crisis, it was pornography.

Credit was given to those who took to the streets to protest throughout the year. Dr. Betty Sawyer, the former leader of Ogden's NAACP branch, called on them to now press their elected legislators to approve policies to make change based on the compact.

"I’m excited that it can set the framework for Utah to move forward and so I think it’s important that we as community members and others hold people’s feet to the fire so it doesn’t become just another piece of paper," Dr. Sawyer said.

Read the compact here: