The racial equity training REI provides is unique. It does not accuse. It enlightens. It does not ask for guilt, but rather understanding. It imparts hard truths that could easily drive participants away, but instead finds them leaning in to learn more. Perhaps this is because rather than focusing on individual bigotry and bias, the training presents the systemic foundation of racism. It explains how racism is a result of decisions made centuries ago that created ripple effects still felt today. It demonstrates that at its core, the creation of racism was—and is—ultimately about and the result of economic superiority and power. And it reveals one of the most devastating results of those decisions was the creation of a narrative that became so deeply embedded in our cultural collective, most don’t even realize how they have accepted it. The narrative has become invisible, yet it continues to control the systems that provide benefits to some and do great harm to others.
We’ve worked with the Racial Equity Institute (REI) for many years and consider REI’s curriculum an essential element in the delivery of leadership program. Our participants are diversity change agents in the environmental movement, and as such, are committed to catalyzing real culture change in their spheres of influence. REI provides a framework that illuminates the history of racist systems in the U.S.A., propelling leaders into a personal examination of the unconscious biases we all carry through our lives and the systems that helped to form those biases. This foundation helps participants begin to understand what the pursuit of racial equity means today. Participants describe the curriculum that REI provides as a critical piece of the training that helps them gain traction on why this work is a matter of such urgency. It fuels participants’ curiosity to learn more about the history of race, about how these systems continue to play out in our workplaces, and how to meaningfully influence systemic culture change around them. They are truly the best racial equity trainers I’ve come across in more than 20 years of diversity work. What they do in two days is essential to the leadership training that we do, and their contribution makes our work not only meaningful, but makes it possible.
I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with REI for many years. In that time thousands of community leaders from a wide spectrum of organizations ranging from court officials and law enforcement personnel to community activists and school administrators have gone through the training. The experience for both individuals and our entire community has been positive and profound. We now have a common language and framework for examining both individual bias and institutional racism. This shared understanding has enabled us to build a nationally recognized collaborative and move towards our goal of reducing racial disparities for children and families of color in our juvenile court system.
As a public health researcher, my work has been motivated by social justice. I’ve been interested in various health disparities and the mechanisms underlying them. Thus, many of the topics of the racial equity workshop were familiar. Nevertheless, it was a profoundly moving experience. Through the facilitators’ skillful leadership, the workshop challenged me to think deeper about racism and to match my growing awareness with actions. I came to consider how my professional work might unintentionally profit from—and even perpetuate—racial disparities. The workshop even provided a safe forum in which to talk about White privilege. In the end, it motivated me to make anti-racism work an explicit part of my research agenda and career goals. I whole-heartedly recommend the REI training.
Partnership with the Racial Equity Institute (REI) has empowered us with the tools of analysis to dive deep into the vital work of dismantling the structures of institutionalized racism and raise up the self-worth and dignity of our students, staff and families. REI is not just challenging us with the ambitious goal of removing the barriers of racial injustice in our classrooms, our work with families, and in our curriculum, but equipping us with knowledge and support structures to create lasting change and greater racial equity in our policy, practice and performance.
We sought REI’s training because we feel our team needs to be leaders in their understanding of issues of race and ethnicity in the U.S. in order to fulfill our mission, and the Groundwater training was one of the most fact-based and therefore compelling overviews of data that would impact our understanding. The Groundwater training will have very long-term influence on our thinking, input into our organization’s strategies and programs, and influence on the role we play in our home community and others in the U.S.
Right from the start conference attendees were educated on the profound impact that systemic racism has had on the health and economic equity of black and Latinx people. The dynamic trainers from the Racial Equity Institute (REI) led a thought-provoking training for an audience of 50+ individuals. The statistics that were presented were astounding and undeniable and the overarching theme is that race still matters. More disturbing is the fact that race impacts every system and is ingrained in the fabric of American life in ways that we have come to accept as the norm. So normal that for many it feels innocuous. However, it is anything but.
It was deeply moving. To the point where I’m a 51-year old black woman and I had a conversation with two 50+ white men afterward that were meaningful. We can have conversations that don’t get emotional and think with the front of our brain and not the back.
Thank you for coming to Appalachia! I was able to attend the shorter workshop last night here in Athens. As an organizer and activist living in Appalachia for four decades, I am lifted by your presenters' knowledge and understanding of the issues of racism being systemic. Your groundwater allegory and the data you presented both tied together what we all need to know. I especially appreciated your explanation that white poverty is the result of racism.
Completing Phase I of the Racial Equity Institute was nothing short of life changing for me. In addition to radically reorienting the way I view myself, others, and the problem of race, REI gave me a competent vocabulary for understanding and articulating the realities of race in our nation. This starting point has allowed me to engage in anti-racism work more authentically and effectively.