Guides

Racial Equity in Public Policy

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Understanding Racial Equity

Across the United States, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Latinos, Black and African Americans, and Asian and Pacific Islanders experience racism every day—in one-on-one interactions, in communities and neighborhoods, and across our country’s systems and institutions. This includes the political, education, banking and finance, criminal justice, health care and other systems built to disadvantage people of color and Indigenous peoples and advantage white people. Too often, this leads to different and often unjust outcomes, including poorer health, lower-income, higher medical costs, and limited opportunities for social, economic and financial advancement[1]. And because these outcomes are the result of policies, laws, systems, institutions and the way our communities are built, they repeat across generations. This is structural racism.

Racism happens at several levels: 

  • Cultural racism: A set of societal beliefs and customs used to deliberately build and maintain a system valuing one race over others. In the U.S., this occurs with white people and whiteness valued over other racial and ethnic groups.
  • Individual racism: Actions, beliefs and attitudes of individuals, overtly or covertly, toward a person intentionally expressing prejudice, hate or bias based on race.
  • Internalized-racism: The adoption – by people who have suffered the effects of racism – of negative societal beliefs and stereotypes about themselves.
  • Interpersonal racism: Public expressions of racism among individuals, often involving slurs, biases or hateful words or actions.
  • Structural racism: The system in which public policies, institutional practices, economic decisions, cultural representations and other norms work in various, often reinforcing, ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. 

The policy change focus of this guide hits the cultural and structural levels. But the conversations we have with decision-makers, advocates, volunteers and each other—as well as development of policies themselves—are also imbued with individual, internalized and interpersonal racism.

Actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic and social life is anti-racism.[2] As an initiative, this is where Voices for Healthy Kids strives to be, and we are working toward that vision. As a starting point, we intentionally lead with an equity framework, meaning we consider how each action we take upholds or breaks down structural racism.

Citations:

  • [1] Keith Churchwell et al., “Call to Action: Structural Racism as a Fundamental Driver of Health Disparities: A Presidential Advisory from the American Heart Association,” Circulation 142, no.24 (November 2020),http://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000936
  • [2] Informed by: Ibram X. Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, (New York: One World, 2019).

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