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Individual and Intergroup Strategies

There are three broad strategies that are sometimes used to describe race relations and racial justice work: Individual, Intergroup and Institutional. In creating your plan of action it is best not to be caught up in arguments about which broad strategy is "the right strategy." That is because in doing comprehensive work to address structural racism, strategies from all three will be used at different times for different purposes.

The first two strategies are covered in this section. Individual strategies, sometimes referred to as the Race and Ethnic Competency and Development pathway, focus on working with individuals through education and skill-building activities to build competencies regarding differences, learning new attitudes and behaviors for personal change and healing. Some groups who consider themselves working at the individual level also increase individuals' knowledge of racism, internalized racism and the myths of white supremacy.

A common expectation is that once individuals increase their own knowledge and skills, they can and will choose to influence others, eventually leading to a "critical mass" of individuals who will work to create more equitable institutions.

The other strategies covered in this section fall under the Intergroup approach, sometimes referred to as the Race Relations and Reconciliation pathway. Strategies within this pathway focus on bringing people together, mostly across race and cultures, to develop relationships, seek reconciliation, increase their leadership skills, and develop skills to work with different groups. A common expectation is that, through having relationships with people of different races and ethnicities, behaviors will change, stereotypes will be dismantled and individuals will work together collectively to address racism.

[FN: This description comes from Three Pathways of Race Relations and Racial Justice Work, by Maggie Potapchuk, Gita Gulati-Partee, and Gwen Wright, unpublished, 11/08.]

It is important to keep in mind that just increasing individual awareness or building relationships between people of different races, in and of itself, is generally not sufficient to make progress on addressing structural racism. That is why comprehensive plans that draw from all three pathways are believed to have the highest likelihood of meaningful and sustained change. To understand how strategies fit together in a plan of action, please refer to the section on Community Change Processes.

Specific topics covered:

Content in this section is grouped within ten strategy areas. Each includes examples; some also include critiques, evaluations and/or foundational articles. Some strategies also list a core organization - one that is particularly skilled in this area. We recommend viewing their Web sites for additional resources.

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