Although researchers have long studied the impact of race on outcomes in health, justice, education, housing and many other areas, the past year has brought crucial attention to the role that race plays in our everyday lives. No one has escaped the news and attention brought from the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others. And so much attention has been given to the Biden administration for his laser-like focus on equity and diversity in developing his administration and policies. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion positions have been created. Corporations and non-profit organizations have released statements to express their commitment to diversity and equity, but all these actions and statements require sustained energy, transparency, intention, and action to truly impact equity.
But even with the necessary attention that has been given to race equity, advocates and change-agents are not complacent in thinking that corporations and organizations will continue to advance race equity without sustained noise. In fact, race equity work is coming under attack. Political leaders and radio pundits have attacked and created legislation against Critical Race Theory, challenged the existence of racial disparities (in the face of actual data), pushed the idea that America does not have a racist history, and criticized the ideal of racial equity itself. These voices are becoming louder and more insistent, and without a strong and fervent offensive, they will begin to drown out equity and revert us to status quo, or an even worse fate of making efforts toward racial equity taboo. Political and community leaders, and our entire community cannot sit idle. Lasting change requires that equity be a part of every boardroom, classroom, and meeting room discussion. Our communities will be stronger, healthier and more economically resolute when everyone lives free from racial oppression – both interpersonally and systemically.
This is a call to action for this community. Continue to use race equity as a lens through which business and political activities are conducted. Practical ways to do this are to examine data disaggregated by race to understand how policies, programs, and actions impact each racial group, and seek remedies to any disparities that appear; hire Black and Latinx individuals to positions with decision-making power; educate oneself on the history of racism, and how racism continues to impact the lives of us all; become a part of an affinity group to work through one’s own experiences with race. Race impacts every life everyday whether we believe it does or not. We either benefit because of our race, or we are oppressed. There is no neutral ground. And let us not become complacent with the small gains that have been made. There’s still so much work to be done – so much noise still to be made.
Stephanie Z. Reed, PhD, MPH, Health Equity Consultant