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Essential Concepts and Issues

This section is designed to be useful to those just starting out their racial equity work, and those who would like to dig deeper into some of the ideas and thinking that others have found useful. It provides background information about important concepts, conceptual information about community change processes and some things to consider as individuals doing this work. The section also includes research and descriptions of strategies in 13 specific issue areas (for example, housing, education, environmental racism).

For those with experience doing racial equity work and who are already familiar with its core concepts, this section provides an easy reference to key papers, publications, websites, tools and other resources.

This section provides information about:

  • Concepts - Four key concepts: race/ethnicity, racism, white privilege, internalized racism.
  • Community Change - Some key considerations for: understanding race relations and racial justice strategies, leadership, community change processes and movement building.
  • Doing the Personal Work - Individual considerations for doing racial equity work (for example, increasing our own knowledge and awareness of issues and concepts; understanding how the system of racism impacts you as individual either in terms of white privilege or internalized oppression; being an ally; and identifying one's blindspots.
  • Issues - Research, concepts and examples of racial equity approaches for thirteen issues (health, education, etc.) that leaders and communities often choose as equity goal areas. Also in this section, you will find information to learn more about structural racism.

Some things to think about as you begin this work:

  • Take time to understand fully how racism, power, privilege and oppression affect the issues on which you are working. Consider the differences among individual, interpersonal, cultural and structural racism and how those might interact in the place and issues you care about and consider those differences in your understanding of what caused the issues you are working on.
  • Keep in mind that people are often at different stages in developing an analysis of how racism, power, privilege, and oppression work in their communities. For example, some people may not fully recognize how seemingly neutral policies of health insurers, governmental agencies, etc. work to maintain consistently poorer health outcomes for some racial/ethnic groups.
  • Also, people's life experiences teach them different ideas about what works to address racism, for example, whether or not it is possible to work effectively within systems, the value of confrontational tactics, and/or whether leaders can be counted on to do what they say they will do.
  • The words that people use to discuss power, privilege, racism, and oppression hold different meanings for different people. For that reason, it is helpful for groups and coalitions to create common terms and analyses as they begin their collective racial equity work.

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