Center for the Study of Social Policy - 40 Years of Innovation
Ideas Into Action
Home > About Us > Racial Equity Agenda

Racial Equity Agenda

Equity is central to CSSP’s goals and values, as highlighted in our mission statement: CSSP creates new ideas and promotes public policies that produce equal opportunities and better futures for all children and families, especially those most often left behind.

To carry out this mission, we work to promote equity and reduce disparities based on race, ethnicity, sovereignty, gender, sexual orientation/gender identity and socioeconomics. Recognizing the central role that race has played historically in contributing to persistent inequities, CSSP identifies as an anti-racist organization, committed to confronting and addressing all forms of racism, particularly institutional and structural. 


FAQs About CSSP’s Racial Equity Work

Why did CSSP choose to pursue an anti-racist agenda?

CSSP has committed to being an anti-racist organization because we know that our mission of promoting child, family and community well-being cannot be achieved without confronting the barriers that exist because of race, class and cultural inequities. Identifying as an anti-racist organization conveys, to us, that we will be proactive in identifying and combatting the impact of structural and institutional racism in this country. Explicitly using the term “anti-racist” is a reminder that we need to be conscious and deliberate about how our work and our organizational practices promote equity. It means we will:

  • Be prepared and competent in confronting and addressing inequities encountered in our many areas of work.
  • Strengthen knowledge, skills, attitudes and individual personal competence to address inequities based on race, both internally and in our external work and written products.
  • Explicitly promote racial equity in our organization’s human resources, management, governance and practices.

CSSP has also aligned its identity with a commitment to acknowledge the impact of structural and institutional racism and to confront explicit practices that treat people differently based upon race. CSSP:

  • Recognizes that structural racism is based upon explicit institutional practices that treat people differently based upon race.
  • Will try to confront and address racial inequities when we see them internally within our organization and in our work.
  • Seeks to apply a racial equity analysis to all aspects of our system change, policy and community change work as well as our business practices.
  • Strives to achieve diversity based on race, ethnicity, class and sexual orientation and gender identity in our staff, consultants, board of directors and partners.

What is the importance of language in discussions of racial equity?

Words and language have power. Whether they are written or spoken, words have the power to convey and interpret a message that evokes reactions such as joy, fear, approval, pride or distrust. Thus, words have the power to influence perceptions, beliefs, emotions, behaviors, decisions, policies, practice and relationships.
CSSP is committed to leading honest, engaged and meaningful conversations about race, racism, equity and inequities both within the organization and with its constituents. Because conversations help to uncover and challenge people’s assumptions, it is important to be keenly aware of and intentional about the potential impact of the words that are used in these difficult conversations.

How does CSSP define racism?

We find the following definitions to be useful in helping understand different dimensions of racism, and their common use within CSSP can help us have productive conversations.
1. Individual levels of racism

A. Internalized racism occurs when a racial group oppressed by racism supports the supremacy and dominance of the dominating group by maintaining or participating in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures and ideologies that undergird the dominating group's power.
B. Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals. Once we bring our private beliefs into our interaction with others, racism is now in the interpersonal realm.

2. Systemic levels of racism

A. Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from minority groups.
B. A structural racism lens allows us to see that, as a society, we more or less take for granted a context of white leadership, dominance and privilege. This dominant consensus on race is the frame that shapes our attitudes and judgments about social issues. It has come about as a result of the way that historically accumulated white privilege, national values and contemporary culture have interacted so as to preserve the gaps between groups in power and those who have been historically marginalized.

(Source: Rinku Sen, Moving the Race Conversation Forward)

What is the difference between diversity and inclusion?

Diversity refers to the wide range of differences among people and the goal of creating an organizational environment that reflects racial, generational, gender, educational, socioeconomic and religious differences, among many others. Diversity is a quantifiable measurement, often captured by statistical data.

goes a step beyond diversity and is defined by proactive behaviors that make each person in an organization, especially those that have been historically marginalized, feel welcome and a genuine part of the organizational culture. Inclusion is best captured by employees’ qualitative experiences, including feeling that their identities are recognized and that they possess the same opportunities to advance as members of the dominant group.

In sum, diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.

What is the difference between equality and equity?

Equality refers to the concept of fairness and uniform treatment. Equity means everyone gets the same quality of outcome – not exactly the same outcome.

In the online column entitled Life:The Ongoing Education, a teacher posts that she teaches this distinction by asking all of her grade school students to take their shoes off and throw them into a pile in the center of the room. When she begins to redistribute them indiscriminately, the students complain that their new shoes don’t fit. “Oh,” she says with furrowed brow, “that doesn’t seem fair. I wanted to treat you all equally!” The lesson, of course, is that equality means everyone gets two shoes, while equity means each student gets the shoes that meet his or her needs. We must ensure equity, before we can reach for equality.

Why is intersectionality important to CSSP’s racial equity agenda?

Intersectionality is a term created by Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw (a Constitutional Law professor at UCLA) that highlights the multiple modalities of oppression that simultaneously impact that lives of marginalized groups. Dr. Crenshaw posits that this concept “enables us to recognize the fact that perceived group membership can make people vulnerable to various forms of bias, yet because we are simultaneously members of many groups, our complex identities can shape the specific way we each experience that bias. For example, men and women can often experience racism differently, just as women of different races can experience sexism differently, and so on.” (Source: Kimberle Crenshaw, A Primer on Intersectionality)

An understanding of intersectionality is important because many of the individuals and communities that are at the core of CSSP’s work are impacted by the cumulative effects of multiple structural barriers and a history of systemic racism. Intersectionality — the reality that exclusion, disadvantage and inequity are based on multiple intersecting factors— is thus important to incorporate as an understanding in all of our work. The concept of intersectionality offers a more nuanced understanding of identity, marginalization, discrimination and exclusion — all crucial factors as CSSP seeks better results for children, families and communities. A strong understanding of these factors can lead to a better analysis of social problems and more robust coalitional advocacy efforts. Moreover, the framework of intersectionality allows CSSP staff to think critically about solutions and interventions that are woven into our values. As traditional approaches to social problems continue to create solutions as though these factors are mutually exclusive and separable, CSSP staff members will endeavor to understand internally and articulate externally the simultaneous impact of race, gender, sexuality, class, etc. and support those communities who are impacted by these multiple factors.

What are CSSP’s organizational outcomes in regards to racial equity? How do we hope to influence a racial equity agenda?

CSSP has several types of organizational outcomes with regard to racial equity. First, we have an explicit organizational goal to help leaders of the communities and systems with which we work improve outcomes for children and families of color and reduce/eliminate disparities. CSSP aims to provide national leadership to help states and localities achieve better outcomes for children and families of color and reduce disparities. To ensure that this broad goal is actionable, CSSP has established and tracks a five-year performance measure (for the period 2013 through 2018) related to this goal): The jurisdictions (state, county or cities) with which we partner will show progress towards improving outcomes for children and families of color and reducing disparities by race/ethnicity.

Annually, CSSP defines the specific performance measures that will hold us accountable during the current year to move toward this goal. In addition, each year we set “internal” performance measures for how CSSP will incorporate and act on developing skills and competencies that enable us – individually as staff, and together as an organization – to reflect values of equity in our organizational processes and be equipped to do anti-racist work in the world. In 2014, CSSP’s performance measures for this purpose are:

  • 100 percent of staff will demonstrate progress in (1) building knowledge and skills related to CSSP’s Racial Equity Core Competencies, and (2) understanding how disparities affect their work and CSSP’s strategies to address those disparities.
  • 100 percent of CSSP initiatives will demonstrate progress towards achieving at least one racial equity goal.

What is CSSP’s Racial Equity Team?

CSSP has established a Racial Equity Team composed of staff from all parts of the organization. The team’s purpose is to identify and develop the training, professional development and other activities that will allow CSSP as an organization, and staff within CSSP, to fulfill our commitment to understanding and working toward racial equity in all aspects of CSSP’s work.

The team’s work focuses on inequities based on race, ethnicity and culture, while recognizing that this work is in the context of CSSP’s broader commitment to achieving equity for all, including groups marginalized by class, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Among other things, the Racial Equity Team produces a staff newsletter to share insights and information, sponsors all-staff activities, consults with other staff teams about their work and helps in tracking organizational outcomes for our racial equity work.


  • Racial Equity Glossary of Terms - This document offers a list of terms and definitions that provide a shared language to understand and discuss issues related to racial equity and social justice.
  • CSSP Staff Core Competencies to Achieve Racial Equity - This document delineates the attitudes, skills and knowledge that will help CSSP staff become more competent in understanding disparities by race, ethnicity and culture.

Site by Trilogy