Magazine article Liberal Education

Planning the Transformation

Magazine article Liberal Education

Planning the Transformation

Article excerpt

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? …

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