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Racial Justice

Our first featured collection of 2015 recognizes that a focus on antipoverty work alone will not achieve racial justice; likewise, directing our attention to race equity is essential to the fight against poverty. The relationship between antipoverty and racial justice work is explored in depth during the Shriver Center’s six-month-long Racial Justice Training Institute and in its library of more than 80 Clearinghouse Review articles on the topic. This featured collection pulls some of the more recent and compelling racial justice articles from that reserve.

The “Diversity Bonus”

What Public Interest Law Firms Have Missed Regarding Diversity

By William Kennedy

Mathematical models have shown that diversity makes us smarter and better able to respond to change. Social justice law firms can claim this "diversity bonus” in five stages: (1) morally committing to inclusion, (2) following legal mandates, (3) welcoming a bigger pool, (4) embracing the math of the diversity bonus, and (5) restructuring office decision making. The process requires a commitment to sharing power and some appetite for disruption.

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Now What?

Poverty-Fighting Ideas for Another New Administration

By John Bouman, Marie Claire Tran-Leung & Andrew Hammond

As the Obama administration ends and the Trump administration begins, advocates must consider how to approach their antipoverty and racial justice work in this new era. At the dawn of the Obama administration, advocates at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law wrote a Clearinghouse Review article recommending a 12-point poverty-fighting agenda. The Shriver Center’s advocates revisited and updated those recommendations in light of the incoming presidential administration.

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TANF and Racial Justice

By Henry A. Freedman & Mary R. Mannix

The effects of childhood poverty last well into adulthood. And yet a main safety net, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, is failing to help low-income families climb out of poverty—particularly if those families are black or Latino. Racialization infects TANF policies and administration at all levels. To help eradicate this racism and empower individual clients, advocates need to discern whether their local TANF programs are attributing racial stereotypes to recipients, and advocates must work in broad coalitions to make meaningful, lasting change.

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The Affordable Care Act’s Tools for Attacking Racial Health Disparities

By Andrea Kovach & John Bouman

America’s health care system is rife with racial disparities in health outcomes. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 supplies race-conscious tools to tackle those disparities and equalize health care. The Affordable Care Act expands health insurance coverage and should bring many more people of color into the ranks of the insured. The Act funds community-based health initiatives, requires monitoring of health disparities, and supports medical professionals who will work in underserved areas.

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Understanding Structural Racialization

By john a. powell

A structural racialization analysis goes beyond examining persistent racial disparities or marginalization along socioeconomic status, class or racial lines, and the structures that repeat them. It goes beyond finding intent—proof of racism—before challenging structures and systems with unjust results. To understand structural racialization, examine the relationship between where one lives and how that affects one’s education and job opportunities, as well as other quality-of-life factors. Move past linear and isolated ideas of cause and effect and understand that everything is a cause and an effect. Only then can we transform our society to a radically inclusive one.

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Advancing Racial Equity—a Legal Services Imperative

By Camille D. Holmes & Francisca D. Fajana

Not only does poverty persist, but also the uneven distribution of poverty among racial groups shows little sign of diminishing. To attack both these phenomena successfully, advocates must sharpen their understanding of the intersections of race, racism, and poverty. Yet, while responses to a recent survey of advocates show overwhelming agreement that they have a role to play in tackling systemic racial bias, agreement breaks down—and answers vary widely with race of respondents—on questions of whether fighting poverty is a proxy for fighting racism. Advocates are called upon to engage in ongoing dialogue and reflection on these questions.

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Eliminating the Racial Wealth Gap

The Asset Perspective

By Karen K. Harris & Kathleen Rubenstein

The racial wealth gap in the United States persists after centuries of government policies advantaging wealth accumulation by white Americans. Although legal discrimination has ended, many current government policies have the effect of promoting further wealth building by those who already possess significant assets. The government should instead work to reverse years of discrimination by adopting policies that directly encourage asset building by minority and low-income populations. Promoting savings, increasing access to mainstream credit, and improving and increasing financial education can close the racial wealth gap.

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Framing in Race-Conscious, Antipoverty Advocacy

A Science-Based Guide to Delivering Your Most Persuasive Message

By Bill Kennedy, Colin Bailey & Emily Fisher

Advances in the science of cognition show that successfully advocating a position or issue cannot be based on logical analysis and strong facts alone. Today’s legal advocates, particularly those working on race equity matters, must understand how to frame their arguments in a manner that recognizes biases, emotions, and unconscious constructs in their audience’s mind. How do frames arise and influence perception, and how can frames be used to promote race equity in the varied contexts encountered by legal advocates?

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