Racial equity is core to social change. Throughout our nation’s history, racial bias, discrimination, and oppression have been baked into policies, practices, and decisions of systems, organizations, and individuals. This has resulted in wide disparities on social outcomes ranging from education to health to economic well-being, with race being the biggest predictor of disparity. Having the impact we hope to have requires us and our partners to center racial equity in our work.
Doing so will better position us to advance other forms of equity as well. In our work with partners, we often get questions about prioritizing racial equity and how that intersects with other forms of equity. Below are responses to some frequently asked questions and additional resources.
If we center racial equity, are we leaving out marginalized groups that are not people of color?
No, and here’s why:
- Racial equity does not mean investing only in communities of color; it focuses on dismantling the systems and policies that disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC).
- Racial equity centers those experiencing the greatest disparities but does not exclude other groups pushed to the margins because systems that disproportionately impact BIPOC communities also impact other communities the system oppresses.
- Dismantling these systems primarily benefits those experiencing the greatest systemic disparities — BIPOC communities — but will also benefit other communities experiencing these disparities: people living in poverty, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and others.
- Our focus must be intersectional — we cannot separate race, class, and other identifiers that the system uses to oppress; we must fight for holistic justice to dismantle the whole system for the benefit of all groups oppressed by it.
How does a focus on racial equity bring better outcomes for all?
Perhaps you’ve heard of the curb-cut effect, the example of how making sidewalks accessible for people in wheelchairs benefited everyone — from people pushing strollers, to people pushing carts or wheeling luggage, to skateboarders. Similarly, focusing on racial equity brings better outcomes for all. Here are a few examples from Government Alliance on Racial Equity that illustrate how focusing on BIPOC communities in specific issue areas bring better outcomes for all.
- Education: “Although there are a disproportionate number of youth of color who do not graduate from high school, there are many white students as well. We have seen strategies that work for youth of color also work better for white youth, a truly systemic approach.”
- Legal: “Disproportions in the criminal justice system are devastating for communities of color, most specifically African-American men, but are financially destructive and unsustainable for all of us. Dramatically reducing incarceration and recidivism rates and re-investing funds in education can work to our collective benefit.”
- Voting: “When voting was/is constrained for Black and brown voters, low-income white voters are also likely to be excluded. During the period of poll taxes and literacy tests, more eligible whites were prohibited from voting than Blacks.”
Why does racial equity matter in predominantly white communities?
Systemic racism is embedded in all our systems — education, health, justice, to name a few. Those systems were designed to produce unequal results. Even in predominantly white communities, race is the difference that makes the most difference across a range of different outcomes. And, as described above, systemic injustices that impact BIPOC communities impact other communities experiencing systemic disparities as well. When we do not address race, we are not getting at the root of the problems in our systems, and the same problems continue for all.
- Why Lead with Race?, Local & Regional Government Alliance on Racial Equity
- Advancing Racial Equity and Transforming Government, Local & Regional Government Alliance on Racial Equity, including:
- A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats: Dismantling Systemic Racism Benefits Everyone, Ben & Jerry’s
- Why equity is just as important in mostly white, rural communities, Nicola Chin, Maine Beacon