Accountability is a keystone of racial equity work. Accountability, as used in this website, refers to creating processes and systems that are designed to help individuals and groups to be held in check for their decisions and actions and for whether the work being done reflects and embodies racial justice principles. Accountability in racial equity work is about constantly checking the work against a set of questions: How is the issue being defined? Who is defining it? Who is this work going to benefit if it succeeds? Who will benefit if the work does not succeed? How are risks distributed among the stakeholders? How will a group know if its plan has accounted for risks and unintended consequences for different racial and ethnic groups? What happens if people pull out before the goals are met? Who anointed the people and groups being relied on for the answers to these questions? Who else can answer these questions to guide the work?

Accountability and Whiteness

The Scales of Accountability
S. Tochluk and C. Levin
What to Do When We F*ck Up — Because We Will — A Lot
Rebekah Giacomantonio
Community-Centric Fundraising
Our Accountability Process
White Noise Collective
Lost River Racial Justice
Accountability and White Anti-Racist Organizing
Jeff Hitchcock et al.
Center for the Study of White American Culture
Building Accountable Relationships with Communities of Color: Some Lessons Learned
Pax Christi Anti-Racism Team
European Dissent Accountability Statement
European Dissent; People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond
Passing It On: Reflections of a White Anti-Racist Solidarity Organizer
Sharon Martinas
Challenging White Supremacy Workshop
Protocol and Principles for White People Working to Support the Black Liberation Movement
Bay Area Solidarity Action Team
Silence Is Violence and Inaction Gives Traction to White Supremacy
Lila Cabbil and Jody Alyn
Understanding and Dismantling Privilege Journal; Rosa Parks Institute
SPARC Accountability Statement
Sparking Powerful Anti-Racist Collaboration

Organizational and Community Accountability

The Liberatory World We Want to Create: Loving Accountability and the Limitations of Cancel Culture
Aja Couchois Duncan and Kad Smith
Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ)
Beyond Cancel Culture: How to Hold Each Other Accountable—With Love
Sonali Kolhatkar
YES! Magazine
Building a Culture of Accountability
Piper Anderson
Stanford Social Innovation Review
What Does Accountability Look Like Without Punishment?
Josie Duffy Rice, Mariame Kaba, and Reina Sultan
YES! Magazine
Ending White Supremacy Culture: A Resource for Naming What We Mean When We Say Community
Hafizah Omar
Living Cities
Leaders Need to Build Peer Accountability
Cathy Dang-Santa Anna
Organizing Upgrade
What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In? — Prof. Loretta J. Ross Is Combating Cancel Culture with a Popular Class at Smith College
Jessica Bennett
The NY Times
Uncaging Humanity: Rethinking Accountability in the Age of Abolition
M. Kaba, J. D. Rice, and R. Sultan, et al.
Bitch Media
Overview of Accountability Circles
Conflict Solutions Center, Community Mediation of Santa Barbara County
CHAAD: Chicago Hospitality Accountable Actions Database
Raeghn Draper + Leah Ball
Strategies for Cultivating Community Accountability
Ann Russo
Prison Culture
Unthinkable Thoughts: Call Out Culture in the Age of COVID-19
adrienne maree brown
Summary Statement Re: Community Accountability Process (March 2017)
Mariame Kaba, et al.
Transforming Harm; BYP100
10 Ways Orgs Can Show Up for Black Lives Without Exploiting ‘Black Lives Matter’
Sunshine Muse
Building Accountable Communities
Barnard Center for Research on Women
Partnership & Accountability Circle Terms of Reference
City of Toronto
Racial Justice Organizing: Organizations Holding Elected or Community Leaders of Color Accountable
Western States Center (WSC)
Social Service or Social Change? Who Benefits from Your Work
Paul Kivel
Transparency Defined
Kip Holley and Jon Martinez
We Need to Make Proactive Accountability Regular Praxis in Organizing and Beyond
Leslie Mac
Accountability in a Time of Justice
Vivette Jeffries-Logan, Michelle Johnson, and Tema Okun
Dismantling Racism
Calling In: A Quick Guide on When and How
Sian Ferguson
Everyday Feminism
Community Accountability Council
Solid Ground
Community Accountability within the People of Color Progressive Movement
INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence; Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA)
Community Accountability: How Do We Address Violence Within Our Communities?

“If you are doing your work without people with the lived experience, then my question to you is how are you accountable and how are you effective of being part of the movement?”

~ Mama Lila Cabbil, Activist, Author, and Water Warrior


We Will Not Cancel Us, Book Release Event with adrienne maree brown – Source Booksellers

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Also in this section:
  • Individual Transformation

  • Organization Change

  • Leadership for Racial Equity

  • Community Change

  • Networks, Alliances, and Coalitions

  • Movement Building



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