I’ve often wondered how Langston Hughes would feel about how far people of color have come since he penned his post-World War II poem, Harlem (A Dream Deferred). We try to sell people on the idea of the American Dream: A dream of freedom, equity, equality, and opportunity. A dream that is achievable with hard work and education. However, not enough has changed since the 1950s. People of color still face high barriers to success (e.g., poverty, geographic barriers to employment, limited access to broadband, etc.). Since these barriers directly affect the people and communities we work with, MDC is taking time to consider how we can better address racial inequities to improve outcomes for low-wealth families and students.

Last month MDC embarked on a collective learning experience to understand the role each of us play in reducing racial inequity. Staff and several MDC affiliates explored how power and privilege affect racial equity issues in America by unearthing the biases embedded in policies and regulations throughout history and how such policies evolved into the housing, education, and employment realities currently affecting outcomes for people of color.

Most helpful to me was the development of a power structure analysis which focused on the ways communities in poverty experience everyday systems (criminal justice, education, financial, transportation, etc.) and how the assumptions we make as community stewards can help and hinder people’s ability to access what they need from each of these systems with dignity. By the end of the training, my colleagues and I began to develop a shared understanding of how we can make power structures visible and reset the conversation about who is actually achieving economic stability in this country.

The racial equity workshop attended by MDC is the first of three phases facilitated by the Racial Equity Institute (REI), an organization of trainers and community organizers focused on anti-racist transformation and optimization of organizational outcomes. REI trainers help individuals and organizations develop an analysis to challenge patterns of power and increase equity. Click here to learn more about REI and their trainings. For more information on how MDC thinks about equity, read this primer, and for more on the importance of addressing racial inequities in the South, check out “The True Situation”.