Making the Case

Making a strong case for racial equity work includes the ability to tailor a message to particular audiences, whether they are key supporters or “fence-sitters” (see Some Thoughts About Public Will). It can also include ways of using data and stories together, considering how each term motivates action. In addition, whenever communicating about racial equity, or related issues of racism and privilege, it is helpful to understand more about what implicit or explicit biases are present for audiences. Communications strategists research this piece of their work extensively, so they can include context and “inoculating” ideas, words and stories that increase the likelihood that what they are communicating is heard as intended.

Resources in this section includ [...]

Examples for Communities

The BFBF Mission
Before Ferguson Beyond Ferguson
Movement to Make D.C. a State
51 for 51
Racial Equity Commission Strategic Plan
Racial Equity Commission, Orange County Health Department
“The Black Butterfly”: Racial Segregation and Investment Patterns in Baltimore
Brett Theodos, E. Hangen, B. Meixell, L. Foster, et al.
Urban Institute
A Tale of Three Cities: The State of Racial Justice in Chicago Report
Kasey Henricks, Amanda E. Lewis, Iván Arenas, and Deana G. Lewis
Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy
Building Equity and Opportunity: What Does It Mean for King County?
King County Office of Equity and Social Justice
Dallas Faces Race
The Embrey Family Foundation; Lake Research
Empowering Black Long Island: How Equity Is Key to the Future of Nassau and Suffolk Counties
Tracey Ross
PolicyLink; USC Program for Environmental & Regional Equity (PERE); Urban League of Long Island
Equity Indicators: Toward a St. Louis Region that Works for Us All
City of St. Louis; Forward Through Ferguson; United Way
Maine Racial Justice Policy Guide
Ben Chin
Maine People’s Resource Center
Race & Social Justice Initiative: Advance Opportunity. Achieve Equity
The Seattle Race & Social Justice Initiative
Race to Equity Report: A Baseline Report on the State of Racial Disparities in Dane County
Wisconsin Council on Children & Families; Race to Equity Project; The Annie E. Casy Foundation
Racial Equity in Iowa City and Johnson County
Coalition for Racial Justice
The Black Voices Project
Ololade Akingbade
Northeastern University Scholars Program, Northeastern University Department of Communication Studies
The State of Racial Disparities in Charleston County, South Carolina, 2000-2015
Dr. Stacey Patton
College of Charleston Race and Social Justice Initiative
Unfinished Business: Linking Boston’s “Busing/Desegregation Crisis” to Struggles for Equity, Access and Excellence for All in Boston Today, 1974 to 2014
Union of Minority Neighborhoods

Examples for Issue Areas

CAPC Statement on Racial Justice
Canadian Association of Professional Conservators
Racial Segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area
Stephen Menendian and Samir Gambhir, et al.
Othering & Belonging Institute
The Case for Housing Justice in Philadelphia
James A. Crowder Jr., et al.
The Stories We Tell: Land Acknowledgements & Indigenous Sovereignty
Center for Story-based Strategy
2017 Health Equity Report: Uncovering the Root Causes of Our Health
Center for Health Equity at Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness
Race in the Heartland Equity, Opportunity, and Public Policy in the Midwest
Colin Gordon
Policy Matters Ohio; Iowa Policy Project; Center on Wisconsin Strategy; EARN (Economic Analysis and Research Network)
Structural Barriers to Racial Equity in Pittsburgh: Expanding Economic Opportunity for African American Men and Boys
Margaret Simms, Marla McDaniel, Saunji D. Fuffe, and Christopher Lowenstein
Urban Institute; Joyce Foundation; Joint Center for Political Economic Studies
The Competitive Advantage of Racial Equity
Angela Glover Blackwell, Mark Kramer, Lalitha Vaidyanathan, Lakshmi Iyer, and Josh Kirschenbaum
FSG; PolicyLink


“A Possible America” Begins With Anti-Racist Training
Glenn Harris and Julie Nelson
The Seattle Times

“Any attempt to change a situation either politically or otherwise should be based on the transformation of our own consciousness… You have to understand yourself to some extent, and to the people in the communities, to their deepest desires, their suffering. That kind of deep looking will bring about more understanding of self and of the community… You learn to look not with individual eyes, but with the community eyes. Because the collective insight is always deeper than individual insight.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk


The Argument Over Social Justice – Tiffany Cross, Morning Joe, MSNBC (Segment begins at 8:41)

Also in this section:
  • Determining Action and Strategy



In the context of racial equity work, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, and acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible.

To be accountable, one must be visible, with a transparent agenda and process. Invisibility defies examination; it is, in fact, employed in order to avoid detection and examination. Accountability demands commitment. It might be defined as “what kicks in when convenience runs out.” Accountability requires some sense of urgency and becoming a true stakeholder in the outcome. Accountability can be externally imposed (legal or organizational requirements), or internally applied (moral, relational, faith-based, or recognized as some combination of the two) on a continuum from the institutional and organizational level to the individual level. From a relational point of view, accountability is not always doing it right. Sometimes it’s really about what happens after it’s done wrong.

SOURCE:  Accountability and White Anti-Racist Organizing: Stories from Our Work, Bonnie Berman Cushing with Lila Cabbil, Margery Freeman, Jeff Hitchcock, and Kimberly Richards (2010). 

Related Resources:  Accountability

Location: PLAN / Change Process

Black Lives Matter

A political movement to address systemic and state violence against African Americans. Per the Black Lives Matter organizers: “In 2013, three radical Black organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. [Black Lives Matter] members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” 

SOURCE:  Black Lives Matter, “Herstory” (accessed 7 October 2019).


When people act to perpetuate oppression or prevent others from working to eliminate oppression. 

Example: Able-bodied people who object to strategies for making buildings accessible because of the expense.

SOURCE:  Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook, edited by Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin (Routledge, 1997).

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.


  • Government policies that explicitly restricted the ability of people to get loans to buy or improve their homes in neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans (also known as “red-lining”).

  • City sanitation department policies that concentrate trash transfer stations and other environmental hazards disproportionately in communities of color.

SOURCE:  Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building by Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens, and Barbara Major (2005).

Related Resources:  Racism (scroll down alphabetically to the box for “Institutional Racism”)

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

Movement Building

Movement building is the effort of social change agents to engage power holders and the broader society in addressing a systemic problem or injustice while promoting an alternative vision or solution. Movement building requires a range of intersecting approaches through a set of distinct stages over a long-term period of time. Through movement building, organizers can:

  • Propose solutions to the root causes of social problems.

  • Enable people to exercise their collective power.

  • Humanize groups that have been denied basic human rights and improve conditions for the groups affected.

  • Create structural change by building something larger than a particular organization or campaign.

  • Promote visions and values for society based on fairness, justice, and democracy.

SOURCE:  Julie Quiroz-Martinez, From the Roots: Building the Power of Communities of Color to Challenge Structural Racism (Akonadi Foundation, 2010), citing the Movement Strategy Center, which offers these further definitions.

Related Resources:  Movement Building

Location: PLAN / Change Process


The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group. Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists when the following 4 conditions are found:

  • the oppressor group has the power to define reality for themselves and others,

  • the target groups take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them),

  • genocide, harassment, and discrimination are systematic and institutionalized, so that individuals are not necessary to keep it going, and

  • members of both the oppressor and target groups are socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.

Oppression = Power + Prejudice

SOURCE:  What Is Racism?” − Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks) web workbook.

Racial Inequity

Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing, such as the percentages of each ethnic group in terms of dropout rates, single family home ownership, access to healthcare, etc.

SOURCE:  Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.

Racist Policies

A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between or among racial groups. Policies are written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, processes, regulations, and guidelines that govern people. There is no such thing as a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups. Racist policies are also expressed through other terms such as “structural racism” or “systemic racism”. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.

SOURCE:  Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be An Antiracist, Random House, 2019.

Related Resources:  Laws and Policies

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / History of Racism and Movements

For specific topics, also see PLAN / Issues


States have a legal duty to acknowledge and address widespread or systematic human rights violations, in cases where the state caused the violations or did not seriously try to prevent them. Reparations initiatives seek to address the harms caused by these violations. They can take the form of compensating for the losses suffered, which helps overcome some of the consequences of abuse. They can also be future oriented—providing rehabilitation and a better life to victims—and help to change the underlying causes of abuse. Reparations publicly affirm that victims are rights-holders entitled to redress.

SOURCE:  International Center for Transitional Justice.

Related Resources:  Reparations

Location: PLAN / Issues

Structural Racism

  1. The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics, and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.

  2. For example, we can see structural racism in the many institutional, cultural, and structural factors that contribute to lower life expectancy for African American and Native American men, compared to white men. These include higher exposure to environmental toxins, dangerous jobs and unhealthy housing stock, higher exposure to and more lethal consequences for reacting to violence, stress, and racism, lower rates of health care coverage, access, and quality of care, and systematic refusal by the nation to fix these things.


  1. Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities by Keith Lawrence, Aspen Institute on Community Change, and Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center, for the Race and Public Policy Conference (2004).

  2. Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building by Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens, and Barbara Major (2005).

Related Resources:  Structural Racism

Location: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts

White Supremacy

The idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. While most people associate white supremacy with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, white supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless (worth less), immoral, bad, and inhuman and “undeserving.” Drawing from critical race theory, the term “white supremacy” also refers to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantage and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not, both at a collective and an individual level.

SOURCE: “What Is Racism?” − Dismantling Racism Works (dRworks) web workbook.

Related Resources:  System of White Supremacy and White Privilege and Addressing Hate and White Supremacy

Locations: FUNDAMENTALS / Core Concepts and PLAN / Issues