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Part 1: Get Ready


5. Build Shared Language And Analysis

As you work your way through the steps discussed above, deepen your familiarity with core concepts related to race, equity and inclusion, and build a common way of thinking about these concepts with your Race, Equity and Inclusion Strategy Team and champions. Building a shared understanding of core concepts is essential to working explicitly on race, equity and inclusion. We offer a few important concepts below to get you started.

Getting Started


A socially constructed way of grouping people based on skin color and other apparent physical differences, which has no genetic or scientific basis. The concept was created and used to justify social and economic oppression of Black, Indigenous and other people of color by White people. (See racism definition below for more details.) The ideology of race has become embedded in our identities, institutions and culture, and is used as a basis for discrimination and domination.2


Equity is the intentional inclusion of everyone in society. Equity is achieved when systemic, institutional, and historical barriers based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other identities are dismantled and no longer determine socioeconomic, education and health outcomes.


A value and practice of ensuring that people feel they belong and their input is valued by the whole (group, organization, society, or system), particularly regarding decisions that affect their lives.


Being willing and able to:

  • Call attention to patterns of inequitable outcomes
  • Take personal and institutional responsibility for the success of their program participants (members, students, constituents)
  • Critically reassess their own practices
  • Demonstrate race-consciousness
  • Understand the social and historical context of exclusionary practices in their field/area of work.4


A system of oppression exercised by the dominant racial group (Whites) over non-dominant racial groups (Black, Indigenous and other people of color), based on the socially constructed concept of race. It is a system of oppression created to justify a social, political and economic hierarchy initially constructed with White people at the top, Black and Indigenous people at the bottom, and other groups of people of color slotted in between. Racism is what happens at the intersection of race prejudice and power.5

Internalized racism
The private beliefs, prejudices and ideas individuals have about the superiority of Whites and the inferiority of Black, Indigenous and other people of color. Among Whites, it manifests as internalized racial superiority. Among Black, Indigenous and other people of color, it manifests as internalized oppression.
Interpersonal racism
The expression of racism between people. It occurs when individuals’ private beliefs affect their interactions.
Institutional racism
Discriminatory treatment, unfair policies and practices, inequitable opportunities and impacts within organizations and institutions based on race. It routinely produces racially inequitable outcomes for Black, Indigenous and other people of color and advantages for White people. Individuals within institutions take on the power of the institution when they reinforce racial inequities.
Structural racism
A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequality. It is racial bias among institutions and across society. It involves the cumulative and compounding effects of an array of societal factors, including the history, culture, ideology and interactions of institutions and policies that systematically privilege White people and disadvantage Black, Indigenous and other people of color.
Anti-Black racism
Specifically targets and places Black people at the bottom of the racial hierarchy. Although racism affects people of color from all backgrounds, it has a particular impact on Black people. It’s important to understand these nuances so we don’t replicate them in our efforts to combat racism and build solidarity among different people of color groups.

In addition to understanding the individual concepts, you should also help your team understand and connect the relationship between them and avoid mistaking one for another.

For Instance:

  • You could think about the relationship between diversity, equity and inclusion this way:
    • Diversity is about quantitative representation of people with different backgrounds.
    • Inclusion is about the experience of belonging and meaningful participation in decisions that affect one’s life or work.
    • Equity is about the distribution of power and resources and ultimate outcomes on quality-of-work or quality-of-life measures.
  • Since diversity is typically the easiest of these three to measure, organizations often end up using diversity metrics as proxies for inclusion or equity outcomes.
  • Similarly, it’s common for people in organizations to confuse diversity strategies (e.g., hiring and recruitment) or inclusion strategies (e.g., training in effective cross-race/cross-cultural interactions or organizational culture change efforts) for equity strategies (e.g., specific efforts to develop and promote staff of color from within, programming or policy advocacy aimed at addressing structural barriers). Then, when the diversity or inclusion strategies fail to produce more equitable outcomes, champions experience surprise, disappointment, frustration, or worse, while skeptics and opponents feel justified.

Going Deeper

See the Working Glossary of Core Concepts in the workbook for a list of tools for a deeper dive plus details about the following concepts

  • Class
  • Diversity
  • Dominant culture
  • Intersectionality
  • Microaggressions
  • Racial justice
  • Racial privilege
  • Racial oppression
  • Systemic equity
  • Unconscious bias/implicit association
  • White supremacy
  • White supremacy culture

For even more on the history of systemic racism, racist ideas and anti-Blackness in the United States as well as other core concepts, consult these resources

A Few Of Our Favorite Books

  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America Richard Rothstein
  • Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America Ibram Kendi

A Few Key Online Resources

  • RacialEquityTools.org Core Concepts page includes a wide variety of readings, video resources and curricula (some free and some at a modest cost).
  • Seeing White Series, Scene on Radio This 14-part series features some of the authors above and many others.
  • Decoded is “a weekly series on MTV where the fearless Franchesca Ramsey tackles race, pop culture and other uncomfortable things, in funny and thought-provoking ways. Half sketch comedy, half vlog”
  • Race + Class, readings and resources from CLASS Action
  • Understanding Race: Are We So Different, an interactive companion to the traveling science museum of the same name, with notes on history, science and human variation and lived experiences

Training Resources

See on-line resources above, plus:

  • Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity, World Trust
  • Project Implicit, Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald
    This online test of implicit association (a.k.a. unconscious bias) offers separate tests focused on race, gender, sexual orientation and other topics.
  • Managing Bias, Facebook
    This series of short training videos for employees and managers focuses on unconscious bias and covers related topics including introductions and first impressions, stereotypes and performance bias and the business case for diversity and inclusion.
  • Give Your Own Unbiasing Workshop, Google
    This resource includes a customizable slide deck and facilitator’s agenda to offer workshops about unconscious bias.
  • Diversity Toolkit: A Guide to Discussing Identity, Power and Privilege
    This facilitator’s guide outlines a day-long workshop.

  • 1Adapted from Race: The Power of an Illusion. San Francisco: California Newsreel, 2003.
  • 2Omi, M. & Winant, H. (1994). Racial formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. New York and London: Routlege as quoted in Seven Steps to Embrace Race Equity, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • 3Adapted from The Equity and Inclusion Campaign
  • 4Adapted from “What is Equity-Mindedness” by Center for Urban Education, University of Southern California
  • 5Adapted from multiple sources, including: Race Forward, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity, People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
Building elements