Planning the Transformation

Jettisoning belief in a hierarchy of human value—a belief that has been well established in America for four centuries—will require a multipronged, strategic effort to heal the racial wounds of the past and to transform our socioeconomic institutions. These two goals are intimately connected, because belief in racial hierarchy translates into values and principles that influence public, personal, and corporate practices and, thereby, perpetuate biases and inequities based on race and ethnicity.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) enterprise is designed to help communities across the United States embrace racial healing and uproot the conscious and unconscious belief in a hierarchy of human value that limits equal access to quality education, fulfilling employment, safe neighborhoods, and quality health care. The importance of addressing this belief should not be underestimated: unless the central belief that fuels racial and ethnic inequities is challenged and changed, progress cannot be sustained over time.

The Kellogg Foundation believes the stage is set for this pioneering enterprise. Repeated police and civilian killings of unarmed people of color; well-documented disparities within our educational, economic, health, and justice systems; an increasingly intolerant and divisive national discourse on immigration policy—these and related developments have created an environment in which race and ethnicity are used to fuel anxiety and fear.

Transformation, not reconciliation

The TRHT enterprise is based on a review of best practices and lessons learned from truth and reconciliation commissions (TRCs) that have been instrumental in resolving deeply rooted conflicts around the world. By uncovering human rights violations and tragedies, and by engaging populations in a healing process, these commissions have succeeded in restoring dignity and respect and, in many instances, paving the way for societal transformation—a prevailing objective of the TRHT enterprise. The Kellogg Foundation and its partners are using the TRC model, adapted to account for the distinctive history and conditions of the United States, to guide a comprehensive national effort to resolve the consequences of centuries of racism and structural inequity.

It’s critical that this US adaptation emphasize transformation, rather than reconciliation. The international model for bringing a country back together through reconciliation is not appropriate in the United States, where racism and the belief in a hierarchy of human value are integral to the nation’s foundational governance structures. Thus, the TRHT enterprise must be designed to transform this belief and to transform the societal structures that are supporting racism.

Thoughtful and collaborative planning is essential if we are to establish a vision of what our society will look like after the belief in a hierarchy of human value has been replaced by the belief in a shared common humanity. First, we must examine how the current belief is embedded in our society, both culturally and structurally, and how it manifests in virtually every institution. Then, we must plan effective actions to uproot it permanently.

Five design teams

The initial step in the design of TRHT was to develop a deeper understanding of how to structure the enterprise. We asked ourselves, “How did the eighteenth-century idea of a hierarchy of human value become embedded and sustained as a foundational belief in the United States?”

One answer is that it became embedded in our national story. So, we know that we need to work on changing dominant cultural narratives—narratives most often told from a white, male dominant perspective. We also know that to create lasting change, we will need to promote racial healing and relationship building within and among diverse communities. Taken together, narrative change and racial healing strategies can also inform public policy in areas where racism is embedded and sustained.

With these objectives in mind, we established five design teams to guide the development of the TRHT enterprise:

• The Narrative Change Design Team is examining how to create a more complete and accurate narrative that will help people understand how racial hierarchy has been embedded in our society from the beginning. The team is committed to utilizing all available vehicles to ensure that a more complete and accurate narrative emerges.

• The Racial Healing and Relationship Building Design Team is focusing on ways all of us can heal from the wounds of the past and build mutually respectful relationships across racial and ethnic lines, relationships that honor and value each person’s humanity. The team is also exploring ways to inform public policies so that they better reflect our common humanity.

• The Separation Design Team is examining and finding ways to address segregation, colonization, and concentrated poverty in neighborhoods.

• The Law Design Team is reviewing discriminatory civil, criminal, and public policies and recommending solutions that will produce a more just application of the law.

• The Economy Design Team is studying structured inequality and barriers to economic opportunities, and it is developing solutions that will create a more equitable society.

The figure below depicts the design team structure and the issues on which each team will focus.

The design teams are composed of representatives from a wide range of organizations that have agreed to partner in designing the TRHT enterprise. The tasks for each team are to envision what a transformed society will look like in each of its focus areas; to study the current racial realities in its respective areas; to examine what led to our current situation; to identify key audiences and stakeholders; and to recommend an action plan for achieving the necessary transformation over the next five to ten years.

In December 2016, the work of the design teams will be shared at a TRHT summit that will be held in Carlsbad, California. The summit will bring together over a hundred TRHT partner organizations—with a collective reach of over two hundred million people—along with Kellogg Foundation grantees and other thought leaders, to develop a well-aligned multiyear, multisector implementation strategy. The work of the design teams will be discussed and utilized as the basis for the development of related resources, toolkits, and guidance to participants so they can begin implementing TRHT within their communities and organizations.

The brief articles that follow in this section provide greater detail about the areas of focus currently being explored by the five design teams. Collectively, while not at this time official policy or views of the foundation, they provide a comprehensive look at how our society would change if policies and institutions were no longer affected by the hierarchy of human value.

Click here to enlarge figure.

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Click here to Enlarge Design Team Leaders list.

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