What does an anti-racist organization look like?
This is a loaded question that I hear a lot from my clients and network. Advancing race equity and inclusion can feel very overwhelming for executive leadership, and, really, for anyone in a leadership position within the corporate and non-profit sectors. If I’m being honest, I’m pretty confident race equity was not on most leaders' radar prior to the increase in the organizing and rallying around race equity that we saw in 2020. The most important concept that leadership needs to understand, is that anti-racism is not a destination. It is a continuous cycle of awareness (knowledge); reflection and interrogation (introspection); and commitment (action).
Below, I’ve shared what an organization with a race equity lens looks like, and the six steps organizations need to consider in order to move closer to creating a racially equitable organization and community.
Race Equity Checklist
✔ Leadership across the organization understands the pervasiveness of systemic racism, and how (and where) it shows up in the workplace.
✔ Leadership internally and collectively reflects on their understanding of biases, policies (including recruitment and hiring), and structure that disadvantage BIPOC in their organization.
✔ Leadership takes ownership of, and thoroughly interrogates the specific disparities that come to light in their reflection and assessment, and commits to concrete steps to address them.
✔ Leadership influences and empowers their middle-management to drive a racially-diverse organization, and a culture that embraces intersectionality in all areas of the business. This includes D&I initiatives that are sustained, and regularly evaluated/measured on their impact.
✔ Leadership regularly assess where the organization has improved, and areas for more focus and continuous improvement.
Race Equity Framework
We have developed a Racial Equity Framework to guide leaders and organizations (and individuals) through the important work of achieving a racially equitable workplace. It’s a journey, not a destination! We recognize traditional D&I training and initiatives are not achieving the desired results, so we took a transformation approach to create a framework that works! For more details on our proven Race Equity Framework, click here.
6 Steps to Advancing Race Equity and Inclusion
1. Establish a shared vocabulary and understanding of race equity principles. A common barrier to engaging in race equity work is those entering the dialogue define “racism” differently. Race and racism is a charged topic for many reasons, and it is critical that your organizational leadership understands why that is, and how to proactively address that. Having a common language creates a narrative that makes it easier and more productive to communicate your commitment to racial equity, as well as a platform to successfully work toward equitable outcomes both internally and externally.
2. Authentically engage stakeholders who are impacted (with BIPOC racial identities). You must invest the time in learning about the needs of your BIPOC employees. One of the negative impacts of systemic racism is the exclusion of BIPOC from decision making and power. BIPOC must have a role in culture transformation, and they must be compensated appropriately for that. It’s also important to note that not all BIPOC have an interest in this work, and that must be respected as well.
3. Continuously gather and analyze disaggregated data. Pillar two of our Race Equity Framework is introspection. In order to advance racial equity, organizations must gather data that is broken apart by race, gender, and other identity variables. Assessing your organizational awareness, readiness, and impact on race equity and inclusion are a critical part of this work. Data can be a powerful tool to identify challenge areas, and effectively allocate the resources and energy where it’s most needed.
4. Identify the root causes of the racial inequities that exist within your organization. Once you are gathering and analyzing disaggregated data, it’s important to examine the root causes of the racial inequities that exist within your organization. This type of analysis requires a structural perspective that focuses on policies and practices that may unintentionally (and, at one time, intentionally) produce racial inequities. This work requires people that are equipped to do this work, and may require outside investment.
5. Name race equity work as a strategic imperative for your organization, and commit to identifying strategies to address the priority root causes of racial inequities. The Annie E. Casey Foundation has identified the following questions that can help ensure that targeted strategies and investments yield great impact:
What racial disparities do you want to eliminate, reduce or prevent?
What groups most adversely affected by the current problem do you want to benefit?
How can most adversely affected by the issue be actively involved in solving it?
What is a specific change in policy that could help produce more equitable outcomes?
How will your proposed solution address root causes and advance systemic change?
What change do you ideally want (not just what you would settle for)?
What positive principles or shared values are reflected in this proposed reform?
Does the proposal have clear goals, plans and timetables for implementation, with sufficient funding, staffing, public reporting, accountability and evaluation?
Who can be allies and supporters and how can they be engaged?
6. Continuously evaluate effectiveness of your strategies, and adapt them as needed. As mentioned above, anti-racism is not a destination. It is a continuous cycle of awareness (knowledge); reflection and interrogation (introspection); and commitment (action). Organizations need to be assessing equity progress on an ongoing basis. Track, measure, implement, assess, pivot. These are the continual steps required in order to create an authentic commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with a race equity lens.
Professor Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, a researcher of diversity, equity, and justice in US higher education addresses questions every D&I initiative should ask. I encourage you to print this out and post it somewhere that you will encounter it on a regular basis:
Diversity asks, “Who is in the room?”
Equity responds, “Who is trying to get in the room but can’t? Whose presence in the room is under constant threat of erasure?”
Inclusion asks, “Have everyone’s ideas been heard?”
Justice responds, “Whose ideas won’t be taken as seriously because they aren’t in the majority?”
Diversity asks, “How many more of [pick any marginalized identity] group do we have this year than last?”
Equity responds, “What conditions have we created that maintain certain groups as the perpetual majority here?”
Inclusion asks, “Is this environment safe for everyone to feel like they belong?”
Justice challenges: “Whose safety is being sacrificed and minimized to allow others to be comfortable maintaining dehumanizing views?”