Combating Racial Biases and Institutional/Structural Racism

This tool helps understand how biases play a role in systemic racism and provides debiasing strategies to mitigate, prevent, and eliminate biases.

Debiasing Strategies

Dismantling systemic racism, which is made up of structural and institutional racism, requires the use of debiasing strategies. These strategies are essentially interventions to mitigate, prevent, or eliminate bias.

In most cases, debiasing strategies focus on individuals rather than institutions, where interventions are most needed. However, debiasing strategies focused on individual change (e.g., “just be aware of your bias”) have dubious impacts and success. Strategies should be focused at the institutional level where they can help prevent and remove opportunities for bias by instituting practices, policies, and protocols that require institutional actors to address institutional racism.

Combating racial biases and systemic racism also requires promoting racially equitable organizational change.

Elements of Racially Equitable Organizational Change

The movement of an organization from one state to another involves many facets such as shifting power, changing policies and practices, and transforming values and culture. Race Forward and its core program, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), use a model of organizational change that includes four key components—visioning, normalizing, operationalizing, and organizing.

Visioning involves building shared values that move us towards racial justice.

Normalizing involves building shared understanding through:

  • ongoing conversations about the history of race; and
  • using common definitions and key concepts—for example, racial equity and inequity, racial justice, racial bias—that put the focus on racial equity and people of color through an intersectional and inclusive framework.

Operationalizing involves building shared relationships.

To advance transformative and equitable systems’ change, local and regional government and other institutions must partner with communities impacted by inequities.

Organizing involves building shared tools that advance racial equity.

These tools are used to:

  • Change the policies, practices, and programs that perpetuate inequities.
  • Develop new policies, practices, and programs.
  • Measure the success of policy and programmatic change.