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Permanent Commission Publishes 2022 Annual Report, Detailing its Work to Combat Structural Racism in Maine

Tuesday, March 22, 2022 - 10:24

AUGUSTA - The Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Tribal Populations (“Permanent Commission”) has published its 2022 Annual Report.

The Permanent Commission is an independent entity with a mission to work toward ending structural racism so all communities can thrive.  To achieve this mission, it is empowered to advise and consult all three branches of Maine government, to introduce legislation, and more. The Permanent Commission examines racial disparities as one tool to combat structural racism. The 2022 Annual Report profiles the work and interests of the Permanent Commission toward that end, including the establishment of the Permanent Commission as an independent agency within state government, building out the advisory role of the Permanent Commission, and the ongoing work to engage with impacted communities.

“No matter what we look like or where we come from, most Maine people believe everyone deserves the same chance to live life the way it should be. But there have always been those who use fear to divide us based on race, gender, orientation, or where we’re from to keep us from working together for a better future for everyone,” said Co-Chairs Rep. Rachel Talbot Ross and Amb. Maulian Dana in the report’s letter to Gov. Janet Mills, Sen. Troy Jackson and Rep. Ryan Fecteau. “For far too long, Maine has allowed the institutions and racism that drive disparities to continue. From our hometowns to the State House, to the halls of Congress, we can join together to right these wrongs and make this a place where all Maine families can thrive.”

The passage of LD 1034, “An Act To Provide Funding To Support the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations” in 2021 established the Permanent Commission as an independent agency within state government. The Permanent Commission is directed by that statute to submit an annual report to the governor and Legislature every March.

The first annual report details the work of the Permanent Commission since the release of its 2020 Report to the Legislature. This work has largely focused on three main areas: the establishment of the Permanent Commission as an independent agency within state government, building out the advisory role of the Permanent Commission, and the ongoing work to engage with impacted communities.

Establishing an Agency

The structure of the Permanent Commission is outlined in this section. This includes the representation of commissioners, as well as the acting staff. 

This section also describes the delicate balance of continuing to build the agency while developing research, programming, community engagement opportunities, and other work. This has been and will continue to be a positive challenge. It speaks directly to the need for continued capacity-building support in order to fulfill the critically important mission of the Permanent Commission and build an accessible and sustainable agency.

Advising Maine Government

The practice of advising and consulting all three branches of state government is central to the work of improving the status of impacted populations. Since the Permanent Commission’s establishment as an independent entity within state government, this work has manifested in three main forms: statutory work required by law, advocating for new legislation to improve the status of impacted communities, and consulting with government entities that have approached the Permanent Commission for guidance in their work.

Engaging with Communities

Community engagement lies at the heart of the Permanent Commission’s mission and shapes the way it  carries out its work. In statute, the Permanent Commission is tasked with seeking public input at an annual hearing and has the power to conduct additional community engagement opportunities in partnership with historically disadvantaged racial, Indigenous, and tribal populations. 

Building upon this charge, the Permanent Commission leverages community engagement opportunities in order to center and amplify the voices of historically disadvantaged populations. More than informants or consultants, members of these communities are essential partners, helping to define the Permanent Commission’s direction and approach.

The report closes by framing the work to dismantle structural racism with seven guiding principles to be used by all three branches of government at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as accompanying policy recommendations:

  • Building awareness of racial disparities takes resources;
  • Awareness alone is not enough;
  • Financial and human resources must be allocated to eliminate the disparities caused by structural racism;
  • Policies that are ‘race-neutral’ will ultimately maintain existing disparities;
  • An adequate response requires a structural analysis;
  • Developing solutions should be led by impacted communities; and
  • Policies that affect tribal nations in Maine must be enacted in a government-to-government relationship. 

“The Annual Report illustrates the Permanent Commission’s significant needs as a growing, in-demand partner and resource for state government, policy makers, and the general public,” said Commissioner Joby Thoyalil, Chair of the Permanent Commission’s Legislative Committee. “We are committed to working together across race and place to rewrite the rules so all of us can thrive and there are no structural barriers in the pursuit of a great life for all Maine people and families.”