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Five most-read antiracism research articles on RRAPP in 2023

The best of the Race, Research, and Policy Portal (RRAPP) this year

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As 2023 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve learned. For many working in the racial equity field, this was a year of starts and stops, progress and backslides.

In the past 12 months, affirmative action in higher education was struck down by the Supreme Court, Black history became the subject of a political tug-of-war in schools across the country, and attacks on DEI programs increased markedly. Yet despite these setbacks, the growing community of racial equity experts and practitioners continues to gain momentum and develop new tools to strengthen and promote organizational antiracism.

The Ash Center’s Institutional Antiracism and Accountability (IARA) Project is a prime example. The Project welcomed over 1,600 attendees — the largest turnout to date — at its fifth Truth and Transformation Conference. IARA pushed the public conversation forward, publishing a total of twelve articles on key topic areas including anti-bias education, DEI programs for higher education, and pathways for truth and healing.

What did the racial equity community focus on this year? To find out, we took a look at the most-read research summaries on the IARA Project’s Race, Research, and Policy Portal (RRAPP): a free database of peer-reviewed research summaries identifying what works — and what doesn’t work — for institutional transformation.

Here are the five top articles and takeaways this year:

1. White supremacy lives in workplace ‘professionalism’

White supremacy isn’t limited to violent extremes — it’s also baked into everyday practices. This article investigates what constitutes “professional” practices in the workplace and finds that they institutionalize whiteness and Westerness as superior universal standards.

Title: The Bias of ‘Professionalism’ Standards
Publication: Stanford Social Innovation Review
Author: Aysa Gray
Summary by: Tyrone Fleurizard

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2. Trying to control behavior will not enhance diversity

Corporations around the world have recognized the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workforce, but traditional diversity programs are not successful. This study examines where they go wrong and suggests companies focus on efforts that engage employees and managers through participation in college recruitment programs and mentoring programs.

Title: Why Diversity Programs Fail
Publication: Harvard Business Review
Authors: Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev
Summary by: Sakshee Chawla

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3. Diversity doesn’t just grow profitability — it increases innovation too

Until recently, workplace diversity was primarily perceived as a tool for enhancing corporate profitability. This article takes it one step further, finding that diverse groups are also more effective in promoting innovation in their organizations — a key factor for success in many private companies.

Title: Why Diverse Teams are Smarter
Publication: Harvard Business Review
Authors: David Rock and Heidi Grant
Summary by: Daniel Estupinan

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4. ‘Restorative justice’ in the classroom is promising, but not without warning

Zero-tolerance disciplinary policies failed to improve students’ academic achievement, while also widening racial disparities between white students and students of color in the classroom. Restorative justice presents an alternative. This study looks at its increased use, identifying risks that it might reinforce institutional racial bias and making recommendations for implementing it successfully.

Title: Can Restorative Justice Disrupt the ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline?’
Publication: Contemporary Justice Review
Author: Mara Schiff
Summary by: Brian Xu

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5. Government must be part of the solution too

This study provides a step-by-step framework for government institutions to create data-driven institutional change. From identifying their goals and diagnosing issues, to monitoring progress, this framework offers recommendations for every stage of the process.

Title: Racial Equity: Getting to Results
Publication: Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race and Equity
Author: Erika Bernabei
Summary by: Daniel Estupinan

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Let the IARA Project know on Twitter or LinkedIn which RRAPP summaries you put into practice this year. Then, check out our how-to guide covering five clever ways to make the most of RRAPP in the new year.

About the IARA Project

The Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project
The Institutional Antiracism and Accountability Project, situated within the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Harvard Kennedy School, focuses on using research and policy to promote antiracism as a core value and institutional norm.

While diversity and inclusion work is an important step in this process, antiracism work encompasses demographic change at every level of the institution in conjunction with the adoption of antiracist institutional norms, values, and practices. To profoundly transform institutions, diversity and inclusion work is not sufficient when addressing structural processes that are rooted in traditions of racial exclusion and privilege and/or discriminate based on group disparities.

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Antiracism Summer Reading List
Collage of cover photos of all of the books

Feature

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15 noteworthy recent releases handpicked by the Institutional Antiracism and Accountability (IARA) Project.

Art Imitates Nation: A Conversation with Hank Willis Thomas
Hank William Thomas speaking with Sarah Elizabeth Lewis

Video

Art Imitates Nation: A Conversation with Hank Willis Thomas

Artist Hank Willis Thomas spoke with Harvard professor Sarah Elizabeth Lewis about how love guides his artwork at a Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics forum.