What do We Mean When We Say Racial Equity?

A new blog series by the Race Matters Institute

During a staff meeting about the Institute’s work, one of my colleagues turned to me and said, “When we write about racial equity, we expect people to not only know what we are talking about but also to understand it.” I turned to her and said, “They don’t?”

That statement inspired my thinking. So here is the first in a series of posts that give context to the term “racial equity”.

First, let’s define it:

Racial equity results when you cannot predict an outcome by race. It is quantifiable and measurable.

You ask, “What is an outcome?” Think of an indicator, like household income, high school graduation rates or reading proficiency for children at 3rd grade.

Now, can you predict differences in your selected outcome or indicators by race?

If yes, then the outcomes are not racially equitable. In the figure below, the indicator is the percentage of male students in all grades who are chronically absent, broken out by race or “disaggregated”. The data tell us that 12% of all students are chronically absent. When you analyze the data by race 20% of African American males are chronically absent compared to 6% of White males. This outcome is not racially equitable. The next step in the analysis is to explore the reasons for differences in the data results between African American males and their counterparts.


How can I find if my selected indicator is racially equitable?

• First step: select an indicator where data is available.
• Second step: Disaggregate the selected data by race.

Written by:
Joanna Shoffner Scott, Ph.D
Program Director, Race Matters Institute

This post is the first in a series defining racial equity.
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