Many organizations are opting for racial inclusion SELF-assessments. These assessments usually ask concrete questions focusing on barriers to “diverse” recruitment or hiring or promotions. They focus on “cultural competencies,” staff and board trainings, or DEI plans or statements. They ask whether managers and leaders know how to “equitably” engage with “diverse” staff.  They focus on the outcomes of racism and white supremacy in terms of “diverse” representations. They provide checklists and prep for “equity action plans.” 

While these self-assessments can be a good entry point for organizations, they also give institutions cover to avoid the depth of institutional investigations that are needed to address the racialized practices that are normalized in the United States.

Businesses — including nonprofits — have years of racist practices normalized within their institutions that have led to racial disparities in hiring, retention, promotions, leadership, and boards. That these same power structures that have allowed racialized practices and policies to remain normal and invisible are now authorizing, monitoring, and establishing the parameters for racial inclusion self-assessments ought to give pause.

Institutions in which inequitable policies and practices have been allowed to flourish may not be the best arbiters for conducting such assessments because of the ways in which those injustices have remained invisible to – and benefitted — them.  Partnering with an outside entity with expertise in making the invisible visible; assisting institutions in productively disrupting unjust organizational norms and patterns; and working on plans of action for sustainability can all bring authenticity to self-assessment efforts.

Written by A. Adar Ayira for

Baltimore Racial Justice Action’s Racial Equity Practices (R.E.P.)

A Monthly Newsletter for 21st Century Institutions