This is How We Achieve "Racial Healing"
To envision a future state of racial economic justice where systemic and institutional barriers don’t exist, we need to transform public policy and institutions that maintain the status quo
Ebony White | Prosperity Now
As we embark on the seventh annual National Day of Racial Healing, I find myself reflecting on the connection between racial economic justice and racial healing. From some of my previous work in launching the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Initiative, I know that racial healing is at the heart of racial equity. I also know that many well-intended people working on behalf of communities of color to advance economic mobility and prosperity, don’t see how both concerns interplay and manifest in people's lives. To envision a future state of racial economic justice where systemic and institutional barriers don’t exist, we do need to reform public policy and institutions that help maintain the status quo. However, in the same vein, we live in a time of shifting demographics and heightened racism where people are experiencing trauma, hurt, and rage from a colonized past that persists in the present.
It’s not enough to say “I am not a racist.” It’s not enough to just acknowledge that wealth created for the privilege was a byproduct of African American enslavement and the theft of Native Indigenous land. It’s not enough to admit that false narratives and stereotypes have damaged immigrants’ image in our society. It’s not ok to assume that all Asian Americans are successful and don’t struggle. Lastly, it’s not ok to say that Mexicans are good workers but don’t reciprocate with quality pay. Racism and White supremacy are woven into the DNA of our society and is spiritually, economically, physically, and mentally damaging for those furthest from justice - and those considered offenders. It is time for all of us to hold each other accountable and redirect racist ideas and practices to one that values our common humanity. In doing so, we can build bridges for individuals and communities to heal from past wrong doings and transform our systems, policies, and practices that limit opportunity to contribute to an equitable society.
Discussions about racism and its impact on our society is not easy for most people. Especially, when you are bringing together people of different races, ethnicities, and experiences. It can be overwhelming, uncomfortable, dehumanizing, hurtful, or create a feeling of guilt and powerlessness. However, there is power in sharing your story and hearing the stories of others. When you don’t have the lived experienced and proximity to those you are providing services to, it’s important to understand how racism manifests through implicit and explicit biases and stereotypes, and how you may be contributing to the harm.
Anyone working to advance racial economic justice should take the time to educate themselves on the history of racism and how it influenced you and those you are working on behalf of. Everyone’s personal racial healing journey will not be the same because we all have different experiences and assumptions that we carry. For example, a White person might be aware of the concept of white supremacy … but, they just don’t understand how it reveals itself in everyday life. For a person of color, you may know a good deal about your own racial or ethnic group’s history with race but not much about other groups experiences. It may not be easy to understand how you might be internalizing racism or see the role you play in dismantling it, but remember to give yourself grace and stay diligent. Anneliese Singh, author of “The Racial Healing Handbook” provide some additional guidelines and resources for exploring racism and ally-ship.
We didn’t get here overnight, so it will take time to reverse the effects of racism. However, being race conscious allows you to be aware of how it’s showing up for you as a person and in your line of work. Don’t be a passive bystander – take risks and interrupt actions and practices that are not just. You will not change everyone’s mind, and that’s ok. To advance racial healing, I challenge you to be an advocate and help create ways for people to grow in their own racial healing journey, expand their awareness, and develop authentic relationships with people outside their race.
Racial Economic Justice
Amid a transforming economic climate, people’s financial status changed - and more often for the worse for individuals of color. The pandemic and rising inflations proved that while all families felt the effects, people of color were disproportionately impacted due to health and economic structural inequities. During the same time, the U.S. found itself struggling with rising racial and social tensions due to police brutality that led to civil unrest.
We are a segregated society and communities of color often don’t receive the level of investment or adequate institutional support necessary to address their needs. The pandemic created a situation where people of color found themselves carrying the burden of both trauma, rage, and financial uncertainty all at once. While many institutions – public and private - stepped up to fill in the gaps and invest more in racial equity and economic efforts, that action alone will not get to the root issues. For example, food deserts, health disparities, poverty, access to quality education, jobs and capital are all interconnected and impact a family’s ability to have choices and thrive. It’s time for us to shift institutional policies and practices that impact individual life trajectories and contribute to the inequalities that communities of color experience.
Here are some policy ideas to consider in that journey …
Universal, race-blinded policies are not sufficient to correct centuries of discriminatory policies. Universal assumes that everyone is equally eligible and have equal resources and accessibility to take advantage of the service.
Communities need a variety of strategies to move families toward financial well-being. Consider the targeted universalism framework where you set universal goals followed by targeted strategies for each group.
Let’s push our policy makers to align our federal and state budgets with our values and aspirations. For example, Black and Latinos have experienced high rates of incarceration and been targeted as “bad actors” that need to be overly policed. Even during recent racial uproar over police shootings, federal funds like American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) previously allocated for important Covid-19 social support was instead used to fund police and correctional facilities.
Understand the difference between policies that prove to advance individuals and families economic mobility and those that reduce the racial wealth gap. This is important because it forces you to not only acknowledge the difference but see how different systems impact each other. For example, we know that student loan debt is an issue for many. While loan forgiveness and children savings accounts are vital for reducing this type of debt, neither will close the racial wealth gap. Another competing factor to address is high tuition rates. We need to consider interconnected policy agendas to really transform our society.
Racial discrimination still exists in housing and lending laws and practices. Passing a law is the first step. We also need rigorous accountability and enforcement of existing laws meant to level the playing field for low to moderate income individuals.
Moving Forward Together
Our differences are beautiful, but there’s so much we have in common, and both can and should be celebrated. Whether you like it or not, we are all in this together. Our society is diverse and it’s time we dismantle the belief in a hierarchy of human value based on race and class. We need all races and ethnicities to collectively work together to advance racial economic equity through racial healing – to acknowledge, validate, and restore past and present-day systemic racism and biases.
As long as racism exists, we have to put the same energy into racial healing, as we do for equitable policies and practices. As Dr. King once stated, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” I challenge you to educate yourself on the roots of racism and practice racial healing, you will move closer to actions that foster your own healing and those of others.