Home News Center Anti-Racism Resource: What it Means to Be an Anti-Racist Organization?

Anti-Racism Resource: What it Means to Be an Anti-Racist Organization?

November 24, 2020
Sarah Natchipolsky

This month, we’re continuing our breakdown of the Western States Center’s anti-racist organizational development tool in an effort to help NJJN members work towards adopting a truly anti-racist advocacy model. As outlined in the Western State Center’s assessment, organizations enter the anti-racist advocacy work at various stages. Last month, we highlighted the “Multi-Cultural” organization, which characterizes nonprofit organizations that make a commitment to representing diverse interests and hiring a diverse staff, yet continue to uphold a white-centric work culture. This month, we’re looking at what it means to be an “Anti-Racist” Organization.

Organizations that fit into the “Anti-Racist” category are characterized as follows:

“The Anti-Racist Organization helps people of color become more empowered through taking leadership, sharing in the power, transforming the organizational norms and culture, challenging white allies and other people of color, sharing in decisions about how the organizations resources will be spent, what work gets done as well as how it gets done, the setting of priorities, and allowing people of color to make the same mistakes as white people. The organization does this by forming white and people of color caucuses, providing training and encouraging discussions about racism, white privilege, power, and accountability, setting clear standards for inclusion at all levels of the organization, reviewing the mission, vision, policies, procedures, board agreements, etc. to insure that the commitment to end racism is a consistent theme, helping people to understand the links between the oppressions, and devoting organizational time and resources to building relationships across race and other barriers.”

- Western States Center Anti-Racist Organizational Development Resource Book 

The Anti-Racist organization’s diversity efforts go beyond the tokenism found in the “Multi-Cultural” and “Token” organizations. Rather, people of color hold some of the most powerful positions and are involved at all levels of the decision-making process. People of color and white people are paid fairly and equitably. The “Anti-Racist” organization is accountable to the communities their mission serves rather than a board, staff, and funders. The organization is also physically located in an area that is accessible to the community it serves — either by public transportation or by foot. Its members are from the community it serves and their voices are uplifted and seriously taken into consideration. The culture of the “Anti-Racist” organization no longer reflects white-centric work culture. A variety of work styles are fostered and an emphasis is placed not on how work gets done, but what work gets done. Unlike the “Multi-Cultural” organization, the “Anti-Racist” organization is willing to identify and address racism within the organization.

Why is Anti-Racism the ultimate goal?

The “Anti-Racist” organization allows diverse viewpoints to proliferate and puts all staff on equal footing so they can do their best work in a welcoming and justice-oriented environment. When staff and members of all backgrounds are uplifted, the organization will thrive and meet the goals of its mission more effectively. When we genuinely listen to the feedback of the communities we serve and compensate them for their time and insight, trust is built and we become more capable of meeting the community’s needs. As youth justice advocates, our work should center the conversation around the vision of those with lived experience — impacted youth and families. Racism in the youth justice system is one of the core issues we seek to address. If we do not aim to eliminate racism within our own organizations, we will not be able to eradicate it on the larger scale.

Further Reading

Institutionalized Racism: A Syllabus, JSTOR, May 31, 2020.

More Than Words: A Description of the Foundation for the Mid South’s Organizational Transformation Emphasizing Racial, Social, and Economic Equity, Foundation for the Mid South.

Welcome To The Anti-Racism Movement — Here’s What You’ve Missed, Ijeoma Oluo, March 16, 2017.

Operationalizing Racial Justice in Non-Profit Organizations, see list of resources at the end of the document, MP Associates, July, 2020.

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