Confronting Structural Racism in Research and Policy Analysis: Charting a Course for Policy Research Institutions

Charting a Course for Policy Research Institutions

K. Steven Brown, Kilolo Kijakazi, Charmaine Runes, and Margery Austin Turner

Racial and ethnic disparities figure prominently into much of the analysis conducted by policy research organizations in the US. But too often our organizations give short shrift to the centuries of subjugation, discrimination, exclusion, and injustice that have produced these inequities.

If, as researchers, we aim to build knowledge that helps shape and advance solutions to the challenges of blocked mobility and widening inequality, we must do better at explicitly examining the structural and systemic forces at work. For many established research organizations, this is more easily said than done. It requires scholars to learn things about our history and its lasting implications that they may not already know. It requires changes to familiar ways of working. And it requires fresh approaches to communicating findings to our intended audiences.
Over the past several years, the Urban Institute has committed itself to making these changes. We see this goal—to rigorously address the structures and systems of racism in the content and communication of our research—as an essential part of our broader diversity and inclusion efforts. The current political climate creates a heightened sensitivity and sense of urgency, but we see this evolution as essential to our mission over the long term. Urban is by no means alone in this endeavor; many other policy analysis and research organizations have also embarked on this undertaking and have an interest in sharing tools, strategies, and lessons learned along the way.

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