By Colleen Butler, Racial Justice Director, and Rachel Krinsky, CEO
Are you growing tired of talking about race with no clear solution in sight? Despite much progress, racial inequity continues to grow, and the collective feeling of disappointment in our failure to do better as a community is palpable.
We are wondering: “Why do we keep talking about this, and why doesn’t it get better? Whose fault is it? What are the solutions?”
The YWCA Madison suggests that the reason we keep talking about this without making much tangible progress has to do with the fact that racial disparities are part of a large and complex system of racial inequalities. And, to be clear, we believe that race IS a relevant issue – it is not “just about poverty.”
Racial disparities in any system can be understood in two different ways, requiring two different responses. Either we can believe that everyone has equal opportunity, requiring us to identify people of color as the source of their own poorer outcomes or we can believe that racial inequality has been built through a very long history of inequitable policies that still have lasting and real effects today, even if nobody wants them to.
The latter viewpoint suggests that, even if most systems and people are no longer actively or intentionally racist, a legacy of advantages remains, and these advantages are the source of racial disparity. This viewpoint also suggests that equality, meaning that everyone gets the same thing, is not enough. Rather, it requires solutions based on equity, meaning that everyone gets what they need to reach the same level of access to opportunity.
If we are really serious about racial equity, we would consider every decision and discussion — from budget allocation to what we say and print about political candidates — with racial equity in mind. We would think holistically about our future as a more racially diverse community and deliberately welcome and retain professionals of color. Individual strategies, action plans or initiatives are less likely to be successful if they are not part of a larger, intentional, community-wide racial justice strategy.
Rachel Krinsky holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Utah and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Krinsky previously served as the Executive Director of The Road Home Dane County for over 11 years. Rachel’s previous work included family and school counseling through Briarpatch. Inc in Madison and counseling and case management services to people with HIV at the Utah AIDS Foundation in Salt Lake City.
Colleen Butler is the Racial Justice Director at the YWCA of Madison. She has been a part of the YWCA of Madison’s Racial Justice Committee since its inception in 2001 and served as the Co-Chair of the Regional YWCA Great Lakes Alliance (GLA) Racial Justice Affinity Group from 2004-2010. She has a BA in Social Sciences from New College of Florida and received her Master’s degree in Intercultural Relations in 2010.
This post is part of the YWCA USA Stand Against Racism blog carnival on issues of race, justice and diversity. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #StandAgainstRacism.