4. Engaging Partners

Communities working on structural racism agree that engaging partners is critical, but they took different routes to accomplish their goals. 


Jacksonville wanted to get the top leaders in its community trained about structural racism and committed to a citywide project.  They were building on decades of studies about racial disparities in Jacksonville. So The Community Foundation in Jacksonville hosted an Aspen Institute Seminar on Racial Equity and Society that 27 leaders attended.   Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change is still an active partner in Jacksonville as it works with these leaders to identify and implement a range of projects, each of which addresses one aspect of racial inequity. 

On the other end, Community Action Partnership Sonoma County began internally and focused on the issues that would improve its ability to serve an increasing Latino community.  As it became clear that the challenges were larger than the organization could address, it engaged with civic leaders, the local hospital and various industry leaders to improve health and health care access for the Latino community.  As these leaders moved into a longer range strategic plan, they asked Moody’s to do research on the economic impact of a series of changes they might make to strengthen the community as a whole.  When the results came back they showed that improving education outcomes for Latino youth would have the greatest effect on the community economy.  This had the best return on investment.  Without the earlier work, this strategy might not have even been on the list of interventions. 


ERASE Racism found that its natural partners on fair housing were not working to change racial inequities because its focus was on advocacy related to individual grievances.  ERASE Racism conducted thorough research about fair housing enforcement at federal, state, county and municipal levels on Long Island and, out of this, identified specific policy changes that were needed.  It succeeded in building a coalition of groups to press for these changes.  ERASE Racism also has a large constituency of citizens that has been very critical to getting policy changes enacted.  ERASE Racism provides ongoing training to its many allies through Unraveling Racism Training, developed and sponsored by ERASE Racism and Cultural Bridges to Justice, and specific Race and Racism Dialogues that ERASE Racism staff and partners develop.   (The Unraveling Racism Training is a two-day program focused on understanding racism and other forms of oppression. These seminars allow people to get a much deeper understanding of what racism is and how it manifests itself. It is a very interactive program, and the feedback ERASE Racism gets is extremely positive.  The Race and Racism dialogues address issues for specific groups and organizations and focus on links between policy changes and racial equity issues. )


The City of Seattle built a network within city government that started with the mayor at the top and includes representatives from all of the city’s 25 departments. The Initiative was designed to focus on city government and its business practices first before moving into communities.  Plans for 2009 - 2010 include reaching out to interested community groups and community foundations that want to better understand institutional racism in their own organizations.


Finally, communities needed to look at who was at the table in terms of age, sex and ethnicity as well as role in the community.   Sites looked around the room and often saw a predominance of middle aged white women.