Incorporating Antiracist Work at Staff and Board Levels



This chapter identifies some practical approaches to commence antiracist work in human service organizations, including how to build top-down support. The insidious effects of racism permeate all levels of organizations, transcending the worker-client relationship to include issues of staff relations, hiring and promotional practices, staff support networks, and the systemic effects of racism on communities and the disproportional representation of clients of color in many human service programs (e.g., child welfare, poverty, housing). We agree with the work of Griffith, Childs, Eng, and Jeffries (2007), who, in examining the effects of racism on institutions that deliver medical care, concluded, “in spite of professional standards and ethics, racism functions within organizations to adversely affect the quality of services, the organizational climate, and staff job satisfaction and morale” (p. 287). In a separate work, Griffith et al. (2007) contended, “a systems change approach is necessary to reduce and eventually eliminate healthcare disparities by illustrating how healthcare disparities are rooted in institutional racism” (p. 382). We agree with this approach, and with that article's further argument: “The theoretical framework for dismantling racism is an antiracist community organizing model that incorporates elements of power, sociopolitical development and empowerment theory” (p. 382). It is our contention that addressing this multitiered impact of racism in human service organizations requires that antiracist work incorporate executive leaders (staff and boards) who have a joint strategy and planning role and who formulate mission, set policy, create organizational structure, identify examples of disproportionality, advocate with public officials, and influence systems change.

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