Racial equity: Not something you do

March 7, 2018
By Dr. Yanique Redwood

When I first joined the Consumer Health Foundation a little more than five years ago, our grantee partners would ask “How do you do racial equity?” To answer this question, CHF set out to help our partners operationalize a concept that we had been elevating since the foundation’s inception. This led to the development of a racial equity impact assessment (REIA) tool. We require the tool as a part of our RFP process and we have held a series of trainings to help our partners use the tool to do work differently. REIA is a systematic examination of how different racial and ethnic groups will likely be affected by a proposed action or decision. I am proud of this work to make racial equity actionable, but racial equity is more than what we do. Borrowing from African-American vernacular, racial equity is also about “who we be.”

This idea of “being” is the theme that brings together three foundations in a recent article in the Foundation Review. Colorado Trust in Denver, Colorado, Interact for Health in Cincinnati, OH and Consumer Health Foundation (CHF) in Washington, D.C. all describe their equity journeys and what it has meant to “be” different. In the article, CHF’s former trustee Dr. Christopher J. King describes the many ways in which CHF had to change in order to embody equity, including transforming our language, engaging in new governance practices, interrogating our grantmaking, building new partnerships and analyzing how we invest our endowment.

For Colorado Trust, the personal conversations about the ways in which the experiences of racism and privilege shaped individual team members’ realities was essential to the work. As Dr. Nancy Csuti, vice president of research, evaluation and strategic learning, stated in her reflections, “There are no glasses with equity lenses that one can put on and take off as needed. This work is about changing the way each one of us is present in the world, every single day. It is about changing mindsets and mental models of how the world works, for whom, and why.”

Finally, Interact for Health’s section of the paper includes the subtitle “Fighting the Resistance.” Ashlee Young and Jaime Love courageously shared the institutional challenges and the fortitude required to lead this change. The fact that they did and the presence of resistance means that change is afoot and the organization is well on the way to “being” different.

Read more about these foundations’ equity journeys in the latest issue of the Foundation Review.

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