The Greenlining Institute
How to Center Racial Equity & Partnership in Research
by Hana Creger, Environmental Equity Program Manager at The Greenlining Institute
Research topics and practices often reflect the existing values and ideologies of institutions and culture. Given the deeply rooted racism and White supremacy in the American psyche, it is no surprise that racist ideologies, whether explicit or implicit, have continued to permeate the design, execution and conclusions of research. Research has long been weaponized to justify embedding racist ideologies into public policy decisions to oppress, marginalize and harm communities of color.
The modern day research field has come a long way since the days of explicit exclusion, exploitation and experimentation on communities of color and other marginalized populations. Today we see increasing interest and available funding both for the study of racial equity and for conducting research in more equitable ways. While this certainly represents significant progress, the research field still struggles to overcome its legacy of White supremacy and structural racism.
While research is a powerful tool to advance racial equity, progress remains stubbornly slow due to a multitude of structural barriers that prevent research from truly benefiting marginalized communities, and in some cases harming these communities. Even well-intentioned research practices can be nonreciprocal, tokenizing, extractive and culturally insensitive. The imbalanced power dynamic can distort trust between researchers and community partners, which works against meaningful partnerships and hampers the ability to turn research into actionable policy change.
While many researchers and research institutions are recognizing and confronting inequities and power dynamics that are deeply rooted in their fields’ culture and practices, this is not yet standard practice. The structures upholding racial injustice in research are so deeply entrenched that players at every level must work to dismantle them. The Greenlining Institute has published Making Racial Equity Real in Research, a report which establishes clear guidelines for equitable, community-driven research practices. This report offers recommendations for a wide audience, including research funders, academic and non-profit research institutions, individual researchers and community partners.