For most of its history, the United States has excluded people of color from its main pathways of opportunity and upward mobility. Racist policies and practices have been advanced since our nation’s inception, practiced by leaders who wrote and spoke about freedom and equality while engaging in the purchase, bondage, and sale of people of African descent and the betrayal and genocide of Indigenous people. The progress made since then, though undeniable, has been uneven and too often followed by periods of backlash and retrenchment.
Our history of discriminatory policies and institutional practices has created profound inequities and injustice across social and economic domains for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian people. And these inequities reinforce one another: housing segregation locks in educational inequities; separate and unequal neighborhood conditions fuel abusive policing practices; the racial wealth gap blocks access to higher education and entrepreneurship; daily exposure to the indignities of racism erodes people’s health.
Unless policymakers and practitioners acknowledge and confront this tangled web of interconnected barriers, efforts to promote equity and justice will fall short. Solutions narrowly focused on one domain may be stymied by continued injustices in another. People on more supportive pathways to progress earlier in life may run afoul of substantial barriers later in life. Strategies intended to provide people of color information and tools to navigate existing systems may founder because they neglect to address preexisting inequities in essential assets.
Leaders across the country–in neighborhoods, civic organizations, local and state governments, and philanthropy–are joining, expanding, and strengthening efforts to dismantle structural racism and repair the damage it has inflicted on people and communities. This collection aims to equip them with evidence about the history and ongoing harms of structural racism and highlights tools that may help them dismantle it. It offers short, accessible “explainers” of three types:
- brief histories documenting how a particular set of racist policies and institutional practices created and sustain barriers that lock in and perpetuate inequitable outcomes
- evidence-based solutions for addressing and potentially undoing structural barriers that sustain inequities
- conversations with changemakers about their work to overcome structural racism
The collection will expand, building out an interconnected web of evidence and analysis to help inform and accelerate progress toward a more equitable and just future.
Recounts the history of policies and practices that built separate and unequal neighborhoods in the United States and the profound consequences for people’s quality of life and access to opportunity.
Offers a proposal for developing and implementing robust “opportunity neighborhood” plans in a handful of metropolitan regions to reverse the legacy of racial segregation.
Describes tools that can help school authorities increase racial integration, despite the persistence of residential segregation.
Explains how neighborhood mobility programs help remedy the legacy of racial segregation, enabling families with low incomes to use federal housing vouchers to move to neighborhoods of their choice.
Explores the dynamics of segregation in Washington, DC, with three local changemakers to better understand the policies that segregated the city and how to combat them.