Racial Equity 101

What is racial equity? The Grand Rapids Urban League says it is “the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares.” Race currently does predict well-being in a number of areas. Here are just a few examples:

Local Disparities and Disproportionality

  •  In Kent County, 63% of Black and 51% of Latino survey respondents said racism was a frequent or constant source of stress compared to 17% of white respondents;
  • In Grand Rapids, Black, Latino and Asian residents are more likely to reside in renter-occupied dwellings than owner-occupied homes. This has significant implications for communities of color ability to build wealth;
  • In Grand Rapids, 47% of Black and 45% of Latino residents live in poverty, as compared to 15% of white residents;
  • Latinos are 16% of the population in Grand Rapids but account for 43% of residents aged 25 and up that don’t have a high school diploma;
  • In Kent County, Black residents have an asthma hospitalization rate of 12.1 per 10,000 people, whereas white residents have a rate of 2.9;
  • Across all Kent County schools, 19.4% of Black and 21.2% of Latino middle school students reported not going to school because they did not feel safe at school or on their way to or from school compared to 8.7% of white middle school students;
  • Black residents account for 53% of the traffic citations given, but make up only 19% of the Grand Rapids population.

The above facts come from a City of Grand Rapids resolution dated September 2021 declaring racism a public health crisis. The resolution concludes that, “health and racism are inextricably linked, creating a harmful impact on individuals and communities of color, including unequal access to quality education, employment, livable wages, healthy food, stable and affordable housing, and safe and sustainable communities.” 

NOBL signed on early to the campaign that led to the resolution. We are determined to help make sure that these conditions improve. Not just in our own neighborhood but also through policy that can impact our City and County more broadly. One of the key disparities that we are aware of right here in Belknap is differing rates of homeownership: 33% of residents are homeowners overall, but that drops to 25% for Hispanic residents and a mere 3% for African Americans.

There’s a lot of background information out there about things like justice, privilege, microaggressions and more. We want to help make our neighbors aware of these concepts and terminology as part of our focus on improving outcomes for everyone. You’re in the perfect place to start learning more and prepare to join us on our journey to becoming a more justice focused neighborhood.

Two other introductory articles on Racial Equity can be found at rand.org and raceforward.org.

What is “white privilege”?

@munroebergdorf: White privilege doesn't mean your life hasn't been hard; it means that your skin color isn't one of the things making it harder.

More on white privilege

  • Recognize your white privilege – the National Conference for Community and Justice defines white privilege as, “the unearned access, resources and social status systematically given to white people at the expense of people of color.”

What about “white fragility”?

@rtulshyan: I say this in my classes: The problem isn't men, it's patriarchy. The problem isn't white people, it's white supremacy. The problem isn't straight people, it's homophobia. Recognize systems of oppression before letting individual defensiveness paralyze you from dismantling them.

More on white fragility

  • Address your white fragility- Because of internalized racism, it is easy for white people to become defensive when called out on racism and microaggressions. A microaggression is a subtle verbal or nonverbal behavior directed towards someone belonging to a marginalized group. Someone might do this consciously or unconsciously, and it has a negative effect on the receiving individual. White fragility is the inability to accept responsibility and maintain productive and restorative relationships for present or past racist actions.
    • Read this infographic on how to shift white fragile dialogue to anti-racist dialogue

Why we strive to be anti-racist:

In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist. - Angela Davis

More on anti-racism

  • Pursue an Anti-Racist Life Style- Dr. Ibram X. Kendi states, “The opposite of ‘racist’ isn’t ‘not-racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in between safe space of ‘not racist.’ The claim of “not racist” neutrality is a mask for racism.”
    • A great place to get started is by constantly pursuing more knowledge on the topic. You can listen to Dr. Kendi’s podcast, Be Antiracist in your spare time or even read one of his novels.
  • As far as organizations are concerned, Philanos.org maintains a chart on the continuum of becoming an Anti-Racist, Multicultural Organization. We’d like to think we’re making good headway on stage 4.

More links to read or watch:

Ready for the next stage? Let’s talk about the Power Analysis.

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