UNITE-LA was founded on and remains unwaveringly committed to dismantling inequities, particularly in educational systems and labor markets. We now pledge to move beyond basic understandings of barriers, opportunity, and social mobility and work to advance equity across all dimensions, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, and social class background.
Amidst the racial reckoning wrought by 2020's spotlight on systemic racism and anti-Blackness, UNITE-LA redoubled our commitment to race equity. Our 20+ years of work had centered on improving educational and workforce systems and outcomes for "underserved" youth. In 2018, we began to include some attention to race equity but without operating through an explicit anti-racism framework. In 2020, we named and embarked on an intentional journey, where we aim to fully integrate and deepen race equity and anti-racism in our internal and external work, with a particular focus on dismantling anti-Black racism. We begin with this focus because anti-Blackness is the key foundation of structural racism in this country and because of the unique and enduring history of violence against—and dehumanization of—Black people.
We view anti-racism as fundamental to our commitment to fight for all forms of equity. The grounding, framework, resources, and tools we are building regarding race equity and anti-racism will support UNITE-LA in addressing other systems of oppression. Because racism operates at individual, ideological, institutional, and structural levels, it is present in every system of society. By diving deeply on race equity and anti-racism, UNITE-LA aims to lay the foundation for addressing the different ways in which communities are marginalized.
We are starting internally, with our own processes and practices. We aim to build UNITE-LA's knowledge and understanding of racism, anti-Blackness, and race equity and implement organizational changes. This grounding will support our external goals to advance systems changes, policies, and programs that dismantle structural racism and advance educational attainment and career success for communities of color.
In 2020 and 2021 we accomplished the following steps on our antiracism/race equity journey:
- Curated a staff-driven resource library of readings, videos, music, and other materials on anti-racism and equity
- Established an internal Anti-Racism Planning Group and Advisory Group to: “Support UNITE-LA in its ongoing work to advance anti-racism and race equity (with a focus on dismantling anti-Blackness) in UNITE-LA’s internal practices, processes, and culture as well as in our external work promoting equitable cradle-to-career education programs, policies, and systems.”
- Created a Workplan and a Goals & Metrics document to help guide and ground UNITE-LA’s anti-racism and race equity efforts
- Modified our hiring strategies to broaden recruitment and diversify candidate pools
- Created formal expectations for staff competencies on equity in order to inform a new set of core values that staff members are expected to help support and further develop
- Implemented intentional innovations in particular areas of our programmatic, policy, and systems work that explicitly advance race equity and anti-racism, though this is still uneven
- Engaged a number of staff in outside professional development courses on anti-racism and race equity
- Contracted with skilled antiracism consultants to support and develop UNITE-LA’s capacity. We began and are continuing: (1) a series of all-staff workshops to build awareness and understanding of equity, racism, and antiracism, and (2) an organizational assessment. Our next focus will be (3) strategic planning guidance for deepening and tracking our equity and anti-racism work.
We are in the early stages of a critical, ongoing journey. Because the journey does not have an endpoint, we will always be learning and evolving, with the goal of constantly refining our racial equity and antiracism efforts. We humbly recognize that we stand on the shoulders of giants. While we always grounded our work in addressing inequities, we would not have been able to arrive at a point of explicitly adopting an antiracist framework without the work of many communities of color and race equity champions who are advocates, organizers, writers, teachers and more. We thank all our partners who have and continue to teach and support us on this journey.
We invite you to work with us and to hold us accountable along the way as we work to more fully become an anti-racist organization that effectively advances all forms of equity in our communities, region, state, and nation. Leading with race is intended to support UNITE-LA to build the framing, understandings, competencies, and tools to advance equity across all dimensions—including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, religion, and social class background.