Advancing Equity 2030 – Building an Anti-Racist Framework
By Andriel Dees, Interim System Diversity Officer, Minnesota State
Rudy Rodriguez, Member, Minnesota State Board of Trustees
April 27, 2021
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
April 20, 2021, will forever be marked as a crucial moment in our nation’s history and, we hope, a turning point for our country. The guilty verdict of ex-officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd brings long overdue accountability to our law enforcement system. It is a significant step on the road to progress in our quest towards justice and equality. The events of the last year, including the recent death of Daunte Wright, continue to expand a social awakening about the persistent and insidious nature of systemic racism. For many of us who have been spending our lives fighting for racial justice, this national reckoning has been a long time coming.
Across the country, people are seeking to better understand the disparities in education, home ownership, health, jobs, economic opportunity, law enforcement, and justice – issues that have been constructed by a deep-seated history of oppression and structural inequities. The impact of the pandemic has magnified and exacerbated these disparities.
With racial justice at the forefront of our national consciousness, we have the opportunity to transform momentum into lasting change. To make progress and to be part of a solution toward a system that is inclusive, equitable, and empowers all, we must talk about race and racism, and take action to dismantle racism in all its forms.
Minnesota State is leading these conversations and efforts in higher education and across the state. Our systemwide aspirational goal, known as Equity 2030, aims to close the educational equity gaps across all 54 of our campuses by the year 2030. Fundamental to its success is establishing and building our work through an anti-racist framework. As an anti-racist framework may not be a familiar concept to all across the state, we seek to share some of the preliminary work underway.
Definitions help anchor us to principles. A common understanding of the term “racism” is through the interpersonal level of racism, the personal prejudice or intentional bias in our individual interactions across different races. While this is one definition of the term, “racism,” includes an array of cultural norms, history, structural and institutional policies and practices that produce inequitable outcomes. The concept of anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing these systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.
To achieve equity in education, not only do individuals’ mindsets need to be shifted to an anti-racist ideology, but the institutions in which they attend or work need to make anti-racist changes as well. How do organizational actions or inactions perpetuate systems of privilege? How do organizations contribute to maintaining the status quo? What is the culture of the organization, its values, and norms – whether stated or unstated? We are asking the questions and asking you to ask them, too. This work will happen as part of a collective and collaborative endeavor. Each of us has to make it part of our personal agenda, scrutinizing our role – whether that’s in leadership or administration, as faculty, staff, students, or as our partners. We must ask the questions, examine the interconnected components and collaboratively learn and wrestle with the complexities in order to build an anti-racist framework for Minnesota State. It calls for doing things differently and changing the ways we do things. Our preliminary work falls under three fundamental elements:
- Understanding and building a shared knowledge of the foundation and origins of racism in the United States;
- Creating a trauma-informed approach to institutional change through an equity lens; and
- Advancing an anti-racist strategy in collaboration with communities.
Understanding and building a shared knowledge on the foundation and origins of racism in the United States
While there are many ways to undertake and understand the origins of racism, defining perspective through a critical race theory lens sets a solid foundation. Critical race theory is one approach to examine established systems as it intersects with issues of race and to challenge approaches to advance racial justice. Historically, the concept of basing systemic privilege on race or ethnicity has been a significant factor in the creation marginalized communities. In order to move from a space of marginalization, organizations need to confront systemic privileges to effect change. As the third largest public education higher system in the United States and the largest and most diverse higher education provider in Minnesota, we have the revolutionary ability to transform the political, economic, and social environment through educational equity.
Creating a trauma-informed approach to institutional change through an equity lens
In order to address racism, not only understanding historical roots are essential, but also the impact of the sordid history on affected Black, Indigenous, Asian, and Latinx communities. Developing an anti-racist framework requires organizations to be trauma-informed. Being trauma-informed is based on the awareness of the prevalence and impact of trauma that supports safety, collaboration, trust, empowerment and choice. In order to effectuate this perspective, we are advancing the critical review of policies, practices, and procedures through an equity lens. We are starting to dig through the data to understand the disparate impacts, listening to historically marginalized communities to contextualize the impact of this data, and engaging with community members, centering their voice in the dialogue that needs to occur to make long-standing, sustainable, inclusive changes.
Advancing an anti-racist strategy in collaboration with communities
Higher education institutions cannot work within a vacuum. It is vital that Minnesota State colleges and universities localize an anti-racist framework around the needs of the community it serves. Speaking with local municipalities, non-profit organizations, school districts, businesses, and citizens creates context to how discussions and actions regarding race will resonate within the community. Race in the context of metropolitan and suburban areas will look different than race in Greater Minnesota. However, there are some non-negotiables that must permeate every community. Bringing various stakeholders of the community together helps to ensure the community as a whole will hold each other accountable for their actions.
We are under no illusions becoming an anti-racist organization is hard work and a tall order. It will require continuous education, listening, learning, collaboration, and building trust. We want to make sure all voices are at the table engaging in activating a new order. Education is a vital first step to unraveling complex challenges we must face together. Steadfast in our commitment to achieve Equity 2030, there is a lot of work to be done, and we will do it together, for everyone.