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 interrelated components: racial equity dispositions, understanding of racial equity, racial equity awareness, and racial equity skills.
Systemic racism is a public health crisis in the United States. It has a profoundly negative impact on the mental and physical health of millions of people—focally, people of color—and is structurally perpetuated through normative, habituated, and often unconscious biases and behaviors. Harvard public health professor David R. Williams describes systemic racism as a virus—“adaptive over time, maintaining its pervasive adverse effects through multiple mechanisms that arise to replace forms that have been diminished.” Systems-informed human cognitive processing—systems thinking—and decision-making are fundamental in effectively disarming systemic biases, sparking systemic innovations & collaborations, and constructing systemic interventions to address systemic public health challenges.
Systemic problems necessitate systemic solutions
The historied 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 interrogate our socialized beliefs, assumptions, and practices regarding our racial differences. To be antiracist is to embody shared visions, narratives, and commitments towards realizing racial equality in the charge for racial equity. 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. 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 asserting our dispositions toward 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.