Based in Greensboro, North Carolina, REI helps leaders and organizations understand the underlying framework of racism. Their approach uses the metaphor of groundwater to describe the deep structural nature of racism. If the groundwater is polluted, helping an individual fish or tackling pollution in one lake only addresses the surface level problem—eventually the tainted groundwater will seep back into all spaces.
As our nonprofit community works across systems such as education, health, housing, and the justice system to provide resources for a stronger community, it is not always easy for each of us to see the manner in which our efforts are connected to all of the other systems in suffering the profound effects of racism. Those who strive to end inequity in a particular piece of the sector can take steps:
- to educate themselves about the structural nature of racism and other related forms of oppression—and the ways in which they intersect to affect individuals.
- to collaborate with other like-minded organizations working in other fields to create system-wide change around matters of equity.
- to advocate not just on behalf of a specific cause, but on behalf of a groundwater approach tin order to combat the effects of racism.
The Groundwater Approach illustrates that systematic racism has seeped into all the systems of our nation. But the speakers from REI left us with a message of hope. Through first working to understand the manner in which racism has infiltrated all areas of our society, dedicated members of the community can work together to simultaneously affect change across entire communities. We must first identify and address the pollutants in our groundwater and then work to provide clean lakes for our fish.
At CNE we continue to educate ourselves on the underlying framework of systematic racism while offering opportunities for expanded knowledge and growth to our members and the community. Take a look at our BLOG posts centered on equity and inclusion. If your work centers around human resources make plans to join us at our upcoming series around equitable practices from hiring and retention to company culture and employee benefits.