If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
- Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town
Welcome to the 5 Things Digest from the NTTAC Partnership for System Transformation Team, bringing you 5 Things to know right now about fostering a culture of anti-racism and equity in your organization.
When it comes to fostering a culture of anti-racism and equity within organizations that are tasked with improving the lives of children, youth/young adults, families, and communities, many leaders would say they are in support of fostering an anti-racist and equitable culture. However, when it comes to employing the things that a culture of anti-racism and equity requires (e.g., self-reflection, action, sacrifice, inclusion, diversity, lifelong learning, authentic relationship building), the support begins to wane, and the conversations regarding challenges and barriers start to mount. But what if anti-racism and equity were not optional—what if it was required for organizations to maintain their funding? What if effective and continuous anti-racism and equity practices determined your organization’s survival or demise? How would your organization fare? 
#1: Equity Requires Long-term Investment
In order to be great at anything we must first commit to it, believe in our ability to succeed, and then invest in it. Scant investments result in limited to no growth, while strategic long-term investments result in maximized and sustainable growth. Whether it’s our career, personal passion, or a heartfelt hobby, we know if we want to be great at it, we must invest in it with our time and actions, in the form of formal education, reading articles and books, watching videos or documentaries, subscribing to publications or email listservs, joining associations, engaging with others who are in the field, obtaining certifications and licenses, participating in webinars, attending conferences, etc. There’s no expectation that it will be easy, quick, or free, because we are invested in it for the long-term.

However, for some reason the investment is not the same when it comes to achieving equity and fostering an anti-racist culture for staff, children, youth/young adults, families, and communities. We discuss equity a few times a year during our staff meetings, attend a training or two, hire a few diverse individuals for predetermined roles, host a listening session with community members, and expect that magically equity will appear and that diversity will be honored.

In order to be successful in achieving and sustaining equity and fostering an anti-racist culture, we must employ the same level of commitment, passion, and tenacity, and we must also be committed to investing in it financially, in the same manner we do with other things that are important to us.


An article that highlights various organizations that have invested in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and their leadership’s advice to other organizations who are striving to do the same.

An article that provides ten strategies to consider when trying to persuade executives or C-suite leaders to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion.

A report on promising practices for advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion in nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, regardless of the size of the budget.
#2: Develop a Starting Point & Take the First Step

There are so many complex levels and intersections related to anti-racism and equity, so finding a place to begin can be overwhelming and filled with uncertainties. One of the best places to start may be with surveying your organization’s leadership team, staff, children, youth/young adults, families, and board members to assess their understanding of where the organization is currently, and how people from various cultures and certain positions are treated. This is important for determining where there are gaps between the type of organization you desire to be, versus the one that you are perceived to be by staff, clients, and community members. 

A resource guide and assessment tool for analyzing the organization’s practices, identifying the stage of anti-racism practices, and asking questions to aid in creating positive changes.

A tool for assessing the organization’s culture, as it relates to explicit equity communications, anti-racist values and practices.

An assessment tool for the organization’s executive level and senior management team, to generate ideas and self-identify areas for critical conversations and organizational change.

A tool that can be used with students, to assist with identifying critical issues related to discrimination and racism within educational institutions.
#3: Create a Culture of Equity

After the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmad Aubrey, many organizations issued statements regarding their support for Black Lives. After the murders in Atlanta, many organizations issued statements in support of anti-hate for Asian and Pacific Islanders. Writing statements as a sign of support and solidarity are great, especially when they are authentic. Simultaneously, we will not move the needle on anti-racism and equity unless we commit to intentional and long-term actions. Charity should always begin at home, or in this case within the organization. 

Based on the results of your organizational assessment and follow-up conversations, does your organization’s culture and internal actions demonstrate its written stance on anti-racism and equity? Is this evidenced in the ways that children, youth/young adults, families, staff at all levels, and community members are treated? Is this evidenced in the ways in which diverse community partners, consultants, vendors, and board members are engaged and treated? If not, what are you going to do about it, and when?

An article that provides detailed steps for organizations that are sincerely committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racist practices.

An editorial post that provides reflection questions for organizations who are seeking to engage diverse individuals and communities for board roles.

An editorial post regarding the importance of board diversity, equity, and shared power with those who have relevant lived experiences, in an effort to strengthen organizational change processes.

A document that challenges organizations to move towards implementing racial justice actions.

A publication developed with family leaders. The Manifesto outlines a vision, goals, and strategies so that all parents are supported and empowered to give their children a strong start in life.
#4: Supporting families within a trauma-informed system
Creating an environment that allows children, youth/young adults, families, and community members to be their authentic selves is critical to their mental wellness and overall well-being. Services that force clients/participants or their families to assimilate to the dominant culture consequently fails to acknowledge the impacts of oppression, racism, and prejudices. It also fosters spaces where conversations about race are taboo. This behavior (both implicit and explicit) reinforces racism and inequities. It also contributes to poor health outcomes, disproportionate rates of severe disabilities or diagnoses, and premature death among people of color (1,2).

[1] American Psychiatric Association (2017). Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations. Fact Sheets. Retrieved from: https://www.psychiatry.org/psychiatrists/cultural-competency/education/mental-health-facts
[2] Mental Health America (2021). Racism and Mental Health. Retrieved from: https://www.mhanational.org/racism-and-mental-health

An article regarding anti-racism in mental health, and guidelines for providing anti-racist mental health care.

An article regarding the importance of ensuring psychological assessments are strengths based, culturally responsive, and not further oppressing or harming students of color.

An article regarding the implications for culturally competent care for Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

A SAMHSA guide that provides tips for providing culturally responsive services for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

An article regarding behavioral health disparities, and strategies for improving cultural competencies and cultural responsiveness, when working with young persons who identify as LGBTQ.

In this paper, the American Academy of Pediatrics describes racism in child-serving systems and offers strategies for pediatricians and other child health care providers.
#5: Evaluation Is Critical for Sustaining Anti-Racist Practices
Evaluation helps to hold us accountable, and ensures there are measures in place to align our words and beliefs with our actions. Evaluation tools provide methods and strategies that allow us to better understand where the organization is currently, track progress towards achieving organizational goals, analyze and research trends, make course corrections as needed, and celebrate the small and big wins along the way. Meaningful evaluations foster inclusion by ensuring that representation, participation, and the voices of children, youth/young adults, their families, diverse staff members within all levels of the organization, community members, board members, and other stakeholders are included in the development, implementation, and tracking processes. Meaningful evaluation also includes holding organizational staff and board members accountable for achieving DEI goals.


An article regarding innovative practices to increase accountability and monitor diversity, inclusion, and equity within the organization.

A website that provides examples of phrases that can be incorporated into performance reviews, to reinforce and measure accountability.

A resource containing sample DEI questions and strategies for evaluating and assessing job applicants’ understanding, values, and actions related to DEI.
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Disclaimer: The views, opinions, and content expressed in this email do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).