Dr. Nicole Evans

Anti-Racist Leadership: Why It Matters and How to Become One

5-minute read

In today’s time, as we look around us, we see the challenges of COVID. We also see the challenges of the recent racial awakening for white America. Our focus now is to see the opportunities that COVID and a racial awakening have presented and to realize our way forward. COVID has given us the opportunity to know that it is possible to interrupt our complacency around ways of working and cleared the way for changes that we needed to make to survive. The racial awakening has given us an opportunity to understand that we can transform our organizations to ones that are anti-racist, so that all people can thrive.

And if we are to take this journey of transformation, we must start with understanding that anti-racist leadership matters.

We are at a pivotal point in our journey. We know that we cannot go back to a system that we know is broken. Right now we have an opportunity that compels us, challenges us and holds us accountable.

If we are truly going to transform and wake up and reckon with what being an anti-racist organization means, we need to start with leadership.

Oftentimes leadership is designated by a title or positional authority, but true anti-racist leadership requires leaders to center equity in their leadership and their organizations through actions. Anti-racist leadership is understanding your how your racial and social identities intersect with power and privilege. It is about being intentional in crafting your organizational culture and environment, and supporting people through equitable organizational structures.

Why does anti-racist leadership matter?

Anti-racist leadership matters because we need leaders who understand the big picture: being an anti-racist organization is not a trend or a badge or a one-time workshop. It is a practice.

Anti-racist leadership matters because it is the only way we will get to systemic change.  It moves organizations and leaders beyond just momentary allyship and performative, temporary measures to deeper actions, commitment, and accountability. It is our collective opportunity to make racial equity a priority for survival, just as survival has been a priority under COVID. We need anti-racist leaders who no longer will sweep under the rug, the experience of those who have been crushed under the weight of racism and who will wake those who have been asleep under the lull of apathy. We need leaders who will take on the role of leading, guiding, growing, living and practicing anti-racism day-in and day-out even when the going gets tough.

How do we move from aspiration to action?
How do we center anti-racism in our leadership?
How do we transform our organizations to to become anti-racist?

Anti-racism leadership requires deep reflection, establishing an anti-racist mindset, modeling anti-racist practices, and embedding anti-racism structures throughout the organization.

Anti-racist leaders think about disrupting racism through individual learning, interpersonal actions, and institutional transformation.

Begin by asking yourself these questions:

How do your racial and social identities inform your leadership?
  • Which of your identities have helped you thrive as an educational leader? How so?
  • Which of your identities have hindered you? How so?
What is the culture of your organization?
  • What are your shared beliefs and values? How do you, as a team, understand your commitment to racial justice?
  • How is the organization’s anti-racism commitment communicated both internally and externally?
How do your structures and systems support your anti-racism commitment?
  • How are equity, inclusion, and racial justice being intentionally centered in your organization’s systems, structures, and decision-making?
  • Who is thriving within the organization? Who is not?
Embracing Equity answers these exact questions through our year long Leadership Residency.

We support you to move past being anti-racist on the surface to deeper and intentional action. We walk with you to unearth the root causes for systemic racism and  embed anti-racism in your organizations. And we do this all with an asset-based approach.

Instead of thinking what is wrong, how do we fix it, try thinking what is possible and how do we create it?

Anti-racist leadership matters and it is possible!  
Join us on a 12 month journey to transformation.

To learn more, contact us here.

About the Author

Dr. Nicole Evans (she/her) is Embracing Equity’s Director of Leadership & Coaching. She partners with educational leaders in the yearlong Leadership Residency program, which supports deep individual, interpersonal, and institutional change.

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