Racial Equity Consciousness Institute

Illuminating the Vaccine for Racism: Embodying Grounded Personal and Collective Racial Equity Consciousness

"There must exist a paradigm, a practical model for social change that includes an understanding of ways to transform consciousness that are linked to efforts to transform structures."  — bell hooks —

Figure 1. Racial equity consciousness consists of four interconnected components: racial equity dispositions, racial equity knowledge, racial equity awareness, and racial equity skills. 

Systemic racism is an endemic public health crisis in the United States that has a profoundly negative impact on the mental and physical health of millions of people—focally, people of color. Systemic racism is a social virus that is structured and metastasizes through our interconnected web of societal systems—perpetuated through normative, habituated, and often unconscious biases and behaviors—that produces and sustains a reinforcing preponderance of racial inequities across multiple sectors of society. Harvard public health professor David R. Williams describes the viral nature of systemic racism as “adaptive over time, maintaining its pervasive adverse effects through multiple mechanisms that arise to replace forms that have been diminished."

Systemic problems necessitate systemic solutions

Systems-informed human cognitive processing—systems thinking—and decision-making are fundamental in effectively uprooting systemic biases, developing systemic practices & interventions, and sparking systemic innovations & collaborations to address systemic public health challenges. To bring about transformative change to address our longstanding public health crisis, people and communities committed to eradicating systemic racism need to develop a critical understanding of the complex and pervasive ways racism operates and the strategies and processes to foster racial equity.

The storied racial justice organization, Race Forward, defines racial equity as “a process of eliminating racial disparities and improving outcomes for everyone. It is the intentional and continual practice of changing policies, practices, systems, and structures by prioritizing measurable change in the lives of people of color...Racial equity is the process for moving towards the vision of racial justice.” As racism is systemic in our society, the work of uprooting racism in our communities to fully realize racial equality must extend and endure beyond reacting to instances of racism with performative, siloed, or linear responses to socializing and institutionalizing antiracist, substantive, and systems thinking approaches to cultivating racial equity.

To be antiracist is to vaccinate ourselves from the unconscious, passive perpetuation of racism by actively interrogating and reconstructing our socialized beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors regarding our racial differences. To be antiracist is to understand that ongoing, corrective action is needed to foster fair and desirable societal opportunities and outcomes, specifically with communities that have been systematically underrepresented, underserved, undervalued, and oppressed. To be antiracist is to embody shared visions, narratives, and commitments towards realizing racial justice in the charge for racial equity.  This effort is catalyzed and sustained by the personal and collective development of our racial equity consciousness— the dispositions, knowledge, awareness, and skills that empower us to contemplate and cultivate racial equity.

Consciously cultivating racial equity 

Structured cognitive behavioral training (SCBT)—an instructional derivative of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—is an organized cognitive development process that employs systematic, highly-structured practices designed to methodically mitigate unconscious, maladaptive biases and behaviors and foster the embodiment of behaviors that align with personal and collective values and motivations. We introduce and detail an SCBT framework for racial equity consciousness embodiment and its critical systems thinking mental models which learners & teachers can engage to assertively and systematically grow mindsets and capabilities to deconstruct racism and cultivate racial equity.

The Racial Equity Consciousness Institute guides learners & teachers through the critical systems thinking racial equity consciousness framework—via immersive resource modules that integrate narrative guides, videos, activities, articles, reflection prompts, discussion forums, and more—to support learners & teachers in analyzing the complexity and pervasiveness of racism, and reflecting on behaviors they can embody, personally and collectively, to catalyze antiracist initiatives, communities, and cultures. The expansive platform is supported by community contributions to the learning & teaching resource base.

Figure 2 - Critical systems thinking mental model of racial equity consciousness development consisting of six interconnected, bilateral spheres of embodiment—reciprocal consciousness development behaviors stimulated through research, education, and praxis cycles.

Through the resource platform, learners & teachers can explore and engage the racial equity consciousness framework and its spheres of embodiment in efforts to enhance capabilities and motivations to consider, seek, and employ different perspectives across racial differences;  elevate cultural humility, competence, and agency—empowering attitudes and commitments towards advancing racially equitable and inclusive communities;  and ultimately, grow confidence and mindsets to be innovative and action-oriented agents for transformative social change.

Racial Equity Consciousness Institute Resource Platform