Racial Equality & Inclusion
CORE MESSAGE: Equal opportunity is a basic American value, and protecting it benefits everyone in our country. Despite the progress we’ve made as a nation, opportunity is not yet equal across different racial and ethnic groups, with some communities facing steep and unequal obstacles. We all have a stake in removing those barriers, to protect our values and move our country forward.
- Lead with shared values: Opportunity, equality, the common good.
- Show that it’s about all of us. Remind audiences that racial equity is not just about people of color; achieving racial equity upholds our values and benefits our entire society.
Federal regulators allowed predatory subprime lenders to target communities of color, only to see that practice spread across communities, putting our entire economy at risk.
- Over-document the barriers to equal opportunity—especially racial bias. Don’t lead with evidence of unequal outcomes alone—which can sometimes reinforce stereotypes and blame. Amply document how people of color frequently face stiff and unequal barriers to opportunity.
DON’T begin by discussing the income gap between whites and African Americans; DO lead with facts like the 2003 California study that found that employment agencies preferred less qualified white applicants to more qualified African Americans.2
Acknowledge the progress we’ve made. This helps to persuade skeptical audiences to lower their defenses and have a reasoned discussion rooted in reality rather than rhetoric.
Present data on racial disparities through a contribution model instead of just a deficit model. When we present evidence of unequal outcomes, we should make every effort to show how closing those gaps will benefit society as a whole.
The fact that the Latino college graduation rate is 32 percent of the white rate3 also means that closing the ethnic graduation gap would result in over one million more college graduates each year4 to help America compete and prosper in a global economy—it’s the smart thing to do as well as the right thing to do.
Be thematic instead of episodic. Select stories that demonstrate institutional or systemic causes over stories that highlight individual action.
Use Opportunity as a bridge, not a bypass. Opening conversations with the ideal of Opportunity helps to emphasize society’s role in affording a fair chance to everyone. But starting conversations there does not mean avoiding discussions of race. We suggest bridging from the value of Opportunity to the roles of racial equity and inclusion in fulfilling that value for all.
2 J. Bussey and J. Trasvina, “Racial Preferences: The Treatment of White and African American Job Applicants by Temporary Employment Agencies in California,” Berkeley, Calif.: Discrimination Research Center, December 2003.
3 National Center on Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 2007 and 2008, Table 9; available at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/tables/ dt07_009.asp.
4 This calculation is based on the premise that the Latino population ages 25 to 29 would be graduating college at the 2008 white rate of 37.1 percent, as opposed to the 2008 Latino rate of 12.4 percent.