At the Kirwan Institute, we understand that it is critical to have an analysis about race, ethnicity, and other forms of hierarchy. We also understand that this analysis is not a communications strategy or a framing strategy. It is not enough to say that we must talk about race. That is only the first step. We must also learn through research how to talk about race in a transformative way so that race is no longer seen as a necessary divide, but something that can help define and release our collective creative capacity. For example, we have discovered that just talking about disparities based on race and ethnicity may have a negative impact on efforts to generate support for race conscious programs. We must also understand how race operates in our minds, both explicitly (in our conscious mind) and implicitly (in our unconscious mind). Research suggests that even when we are not talking about race, we are thinking about it.
This notion is easy to understand when we consider how visible race has been in the social, economic, and political history of the United States. Race has been—and continues to be—a strong force in determining how opportunity is distributed in our society. Also, race influences many of the important decisions we make in our personal, professional, and social lives: where we live, who our friends are, which political candidates we vote for, and which social programs we support. For most Americans, all of these issues include some consideration of race.