Working to Uphold Racial Equity at Heartland Alliance

Alexis “Ali” Carella, Ph.D. | Senior Research Associate

The Research & Policy Team (which includes: The Social IMPACT Research Center, National Initiatives, and Policy & Advocacy) was fortunate enough to recently attend a full day of anti-racism training facilitated by the Center for Social Innovation. The training pushed us as a team to think deeply about the intersections of racism and poverty, have productive and real conversations about race, and develop strategies for integrating anti-racism work into our everyday ways of doing business. For those of us on the team who are white, the training pushed us to examine our privilege and experience, which was a welcomed and vital exercise.

Aside from having rich discussions about structural racism and examining the role of historic and current policies that shape inequity in our country, our teams spent a lot of time discussing what we are already doing to work on racial equity, and identify areas where we need to commit more attention to explicitly address anti-racism. From there, we prioritized racial equity initiatives, developed teams to address our priorities, and started discussing action steps we can take to reach our anti-racism goals. We talked a lot about operationalizing good intentions, examining pain points with honesty, and the ways that we can be bold and situate ourselves as leaders in anti-racist, equitable work. We are proud of the existing ways we work to uphold equity, but also know there are a lot of areas where we need to be push ourselves and dedicate time to do better.

We spoke about the adaptable nature of racism, and how it permeates structures, individuals, policies and more in ways that are often hidden. Racism is multi-faceted. This reality pushed us to think about how anti-racism should not be viewed as a separate goal, priority, or working group, but as a paradigm shift that truly allows us to commit to racial equity in our work. This commitment requires us to apply a racial equity lens to everything that we do, including where we make our purchases, how we recruit new hires, who we partner with, our commonly-used terms in publications and presentations, and much more. Our team discussed how this work cannot be accomplished in one day, but how we can build anti-racism into our existing structures, in a manner that will allow us to keep checking ourselves and constantly seek to maintain an anti-racist agenda with integrity. Such commitment will push us to examine the presence and role of whiteness in our personal and professional lives, and examine our own biases with courage. We need to embrace discomfort in this work in order to grow, and value multiple perspectives to come to true understanding.

The Research & Policy department is committed to upholding racial equity in all of our work, looking inward and challenging ourselves where we need challenging, and putting our plans into action. We aim to uphold our commitment to anti-racism for years to come.