Antiracism Must Be A Core Organizational Value

Promoting antiracism requires organizations to incorporate the principles of antiracism as a core organizational value.

Reviewed by Daniel Estupinan


The Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services employed approximately 3,400 individuals to provide housing, mental health, and other services to low-income members of the Jewish community. As the organization’s community grew increasingly diverse, it needed to embrace multiculturalism as a way to better serve its community. That process underwent numerous phases, each of which exposed different challenges in addressing structural racism within the organization.

Through these various challenges, the organization’s experience with addressing structural racism provided a wide range of insight into the ideal approach that other institutions may take in their own path to address structural racism. These insights include the importance of adopting a common language around structural racism – ensuring the entire organization is actively working to promote the principles of anti-racism. While simultaneously highlighting the challenge of responding to white employees’ perceptions that racism is an intentional act of an individual, rather than a symptom of structural racism.

These findings are provided by Mary Pender Greene, who served as the Assistant Director of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services. Before serving as the organization’s Assistant Director, she also served as its Chief of Social Work Services, Director of Group Treatment, and Director of the Confronting Organizational Racism Initiative.

Methods and Findings

The organization chose to collectively pursue strategies to address systemic racism. Its employees began that process with different perspectives derived from their own unique experiences. This intersection contributed to the organization’s realization that its first step in addressing structural racism was training that offered staff and leadership the opportunity to adopt a collective understanding of structural racism. Through these trainings, the organization also focused on enhancing its management capacity so that leaders could actively integrate the organization’s antiracist goals into management.

While it is important for each individual in an organization to change their personal attitudes in combating structural racism, it is also critical that staff members of color hold significant degrees of power and influence within the organization. These efforts may ultimately contribute to a perception among white employees that the organization’s antiracist policies are marginalizing or devaluing their traditional role in the organization. Therefore, it is critical for organizations to actively develop the capacity of leadership to respond to the tension and conflict that may arise while pursuing anti-racism policies. It is equally as important for organizations to maintain a culture of inclusivity that amplifies the voices and perspectives of staff members of color.

Apart from these efforts, it is also important for managers to pursue diversity in representation while refraining from promoting conformity to a white-centric perception of competence. Concurrently, managers should strive to encourage white staff members to actively listen to the perspectives of staff members of color, as a way to amplify their voices in the organization. In addition to these strategies, the organization must also curtail the frequency of microaggressions, which if unaddressed may ultimately affect the organization’s ability to effectively serve its community.


Organizations may pursue greater racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity among their staff as part of a strategy to enhance how they serve their clients. In the case of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, efforts to enhance internal diversity yielded benefits beyond the organization’s initial intention. Rather than simply improving its delivery of services, the organization’s multicultural staff brought new perspectives and improved the quality and impact of its work. This included identifying strategies for engaging with stakeholders that employees had traditionally perceived to be irrelevant, while simultaneously contributing their perspectives to reframe existing challenges in ways that white employees had not traditionally done.

To achieve these results, it is critical that every staff member participates in the organization’s mission of promoting antiracism. In doing so, the organization’s leaders must actively work to incorporate the principles of antiracism as a core organizational value. While these efforts may require a series of adjustments to an organization’s initial approach to antiracist work, they serve as part of a consistent, yet imperfect, pathway to achieving an anti-racist organizational environment.


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