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Where Does Your Organization Fall on the Scale of Anti-racism?

July 30, 2020
Sarah Natchipolsky


Reintroducing the Western States Anti-Racist Organizational Development Tool 

As youth justice advocates, our organizations must strive to be anti-racist at every turn. We know that youth of color are disproportionately targeted and over-represented at every level of the youth justice system, and we know that systemic racism is responsible for these disparities. To dismantle the racism in the youth justice system, we must first address and confront the racism within our organizations.  

When NJJN first set out to become anti-racist, we understood that it was important to undergo the act of self-reflection to ensure that our organizations and network as a whole were not reproducing white supremacy in how we advocate and how we work together as peers. Some organizations within our network are further along than others, but one of the things we’ve heard in recent weeks and months is that some within our network are just beginning. 

It can be difficult to know exactly where to start, but conducting an organizational audit is important in understanding where an organization stands and creating a trajectory of where to go. One tool for such an audit is the Western States Center’s Anti-Racist Organizational Development document. This document outlines the different categories of organizational development, tools to determine what category your organization is in, and steps to becoming an anti-racist organization.  

The four possible categories of organizational development are: 1) The All White Club, 2) The Affirmative Action or ‘Token’ Organization, 2) The Multi-Cultural Organization, and the 4) The Anti-Racist Organization 

  • All White Clubs are organizations that consist entirely of white employees and higher-ups, and have made few adjustments to the culture of the organization that are inclusive to people of color.  

  • Affirmative Action Organizations are attempting to bring more people of color into their organization through fair hiring practices, but the culture may still not be inclusive and there may be few people of color in leadership positions.  

  • Multi-Cultural Organizations seek to hire diverse candidates and offer programs that help members understand other cultures. However, the culture is still designed to accommodate white members, and people of color are asked to fit in.  

  • Anti-Racist Organizations allow people of color to take on leadership roles, transform the organizational culture, and set priorities. These organizations devote time and resources to education on racial issues and breaking down racial barriers.   

Organizations cannot jump from being an All White Club to an Anti-Racist Organization, and some may find that their organization possesses characteristics of more than one category. Understanding where your organization falls within these anti-racists developmental stages involves evaluating its power structure, culture, level of awareness regarding race and racism issues. The Western States assessment provides a concrete tool to help your organization start to uncover where you are in these areas and where you need to go in order to adopt an anti-racist advocacy framework. We encourage our members to use the Western States (or another assessment) - particularly those who find themselves at the beginning stages of becoming an anti-racist organization.  

In our upcoming monthly newsletters, we will profile the individual aspects that can help further an organization in its anti-racism development efforts.  

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