Q: What motivated you to lead the RAND Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy?
A: When I originally reached out to RAND in August of 2020, I had just learned that it was in the process of formalizing a center for racial equity. In my initial communication to RAND I wrote, “I believe now, more than ever, these types of initiatives need to move quickly to support changes in current public policy.” As inaugural Director of the Center to Advance Racial Equity Policy, I still feel that urgency. We are at a critical point in history, where enacting real policy change is not only important, but a central part of creating an equitable society for all. I believe combining RAND’s history of rigorous research with racial equity studies well-positions us to be leaders in public policy conversations in this arena. Through our joint research and inclusive programmatic efforts, I believe we can highlight racial equity issues in innovative ways which lead to meaningful policy development, broader access, and change.
What does racial equity mean to you?
Applying a racial equity lens, to me, means we are not interested in just “closing the gaps” between racialized groups, but that we are striving to equalize “the playing field” through inclusive research and data-driven policy reforms. When systems and structures are not working well, they are often not working well across the board. Advancing racial equity moves us beyond just focusing on disparities and refocuses us on developing inclusive and equitable solutions. Systems that are failing marginalized populations are failing all of us. Research shows that deeply racialized systems depress life outcomes and are costly. Thus, advancing a racial equity lens enables us to increase our collective success and improve society overall.
What brings you to this work on racial equity?
As a multiracial woman of two multiracial parents (i.e., my mother identifies predominantly as American, English, and German and my father identifies as American, Black, and Creole) my racial and cultural positionalities are an inherent part of my identity. My parents stressed to me that learning about all of my racial and ethnic backgrounds were important. The racially pluralistic frame that my parents instilled in me allowed me to develop emotional and cultural competencies around diversity and race that were quite different than my peers around me. They encouraged me to learn the “hard truths” about history (e.g., racism, sexism, and cultural and gender biases), which allowed me to confront difficult concepts like why some of my ancestors enslaved others and why some of my ancestors were enslaved. Confronting difficult topics like this growing up allowed me to look deeper at myself, society, and reflect on the development of racialized behaviors around me. Looking back, I can see just how this upbringing influenced me to be curious about cultures and pursue interdisciplinary research in Latin American history, anthropological-archaeology, United States and indigenous history, cultural and ethnic studies, linguistics and, ultimately, racial equity studies.
Read more in the full Q&A »