Where to Start, or Moving Forward on Race-equity/ Anti-racist Legal Advocacy

If you are considering, and we hope you are, plans to advance racial equity, diversity and inclusion (REDI) in your work: get started. Or, move forward and grow on your race equity journey, be it your personal journey, professional journey, or organizational journey. Just do it.

This section presents ideas and projects that attorneys, interdisciplinary teams, and organizations can consider to start or deepen their work in being effective anti-racist practices. These “quick start” ideas are suggested so people and groups can start with a practice that works best for them, see success, then develop momentum in their efforts.

For example, an attorney in a firm that represents parents wanted to put on targeted race equity trainings. What was suggested was a sort of stair step approach so that each training would build upon and reinforce the prior training’s concepts and key take aways.

Take the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) Project Implicit (harvard.edu) The Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures the strength of associations between concepts and evaluations or stereotypes to reveal an individual’s hidden or subconscious biases.

Start a coalition of 3-4 practitioners in one’s jurisdiction to meet and discuss race equity articles, videos, webinars, new laws and practices, etc. The index section in this tool kits lists many videos on you tube, podcasts and reference material to choose from.

Within your organization, agree to the definitions of “key race equity terms” so that everyone will be using those terms in the same way.

Highlight and celebrate on your bulletin boards, intranet, newsletter, etc., cultural events, such as Pride month, Asian American Pacific Heritage month, Yom Kippur, Native American History Month, Juneteenth, etc. Even just a short paragraph about the significance of these periods can help to create an inclusive culture.

Write a mission or vision statement for your organization that includes a race equity focus and commitment.

Start a talking group! Pick books, videos, articles about race and bias in child welfare and discuss. These types of groups work best with ground rules developed to create safe spaces. Just make sure that people know they’re there to discuss, not debate. For many people, their entire exposure to people who are different from them—in terms of race, cultural background, and even political thought—is in the workplace. And the best way to understand what others experience and what motivates them is through authentic conversation. By stepping into these previously evaded conversations, we can solidify cultures of inclusion while making us all more comfortable with the most uncomfortable of topics. Through candid conversations, we can learn what culture employees actually experience versus what we think it is or want it to be.

Acquire multiracial pictures, toys, and books in the office, including books for children.

Set a goal to have trainings on anti-racist practices once a quarter or at least twice a year. Adding a section in staff meetings briefly highlighting “DEI concepts”.

Conduct case management and case review meetings with a DEI lens.

Raising Awareness of Bias and Racism: Questions for Attorneys can help you check your biases and better understand clients, their perspectives and world views, become a more effective and empathic advocate.

Starting an Interdisciplinary team within one’s organization

Change organizational values and goals to include real, measurable diversity and inclusion across all activities, and then measure the impact.

Appeal of Administrative findings- prevent entry of parent information onto state registry using a collateral estoppel argument

Argue Deferred or Delayed Prosecution


Assert Selective prosecution argument

In jurisprudence, selective prosecution is a procedural defense in which defendants argue that they should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law, as the criminal justice system discriminated against them by choosing to prosecute. In claims of selective prosecution, defendants essentially argue that it is irrelevant whether they are guilty of violating a law, but that the fact of being prosecuted is based upon forbidden reasons. Such a claim might, for example, entail an argument that persons of different age, race, religion, sex, gender, or political alignment, were engaged in the same illegal acts for which the defendant is being tried yet were not prosecuted, and that the defendant is being prosecuted specifically because of a bias as to that class.

When making Policy, Program, or Practice Decisions, utilize one of the following:

a) A Racial Equity Impact Assessment 

 A Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) is a systematic examination of how different racial and ethnic groups will likely be affected by a proposed action or decision. REIAs are used to minimize unanticipated adverse consequences in a variety of contexts, including the analysis of proposed policies, institutional practices, programs, plans and budgetary decisions. The REIA can be a vital tool for preventing institutional racism and for identifying new options to remedy long-standing inequities.  https://www.raceforward.org/practice/tools/racial-equity-impact-assessment-toolkit

b) Looking through the Equity Lens questions

  1. Who are the under-represented groups affected by this policy, program, practice, decision, or action?  What are the potential impacts on these groups?
  2. Does this policy, program, practice, decision, or action worsen existing disparities or produce other unintended consequences?
  3. How have you intentionally involved stakeholders who are also members of the communities affected by this policy, program, practice, decision, or action?  Can you validate your assessments in #1 and #2, having considered this stakeholder reaction?
  4. What are the barriers to more equitable outcomes (e.g., mandated, political, emotional, financial, programmatic, or managerial)?
  5. How will you (a) mitigate the negative impacts and (b) address the barriers identified above?

Research:  Understand how funders seeking to facilitate equity in research define such research, and how researchers design and  integrate racial equity methods into their work.


Set up recruitment, hiring and promotions with an unmitigated commitment to inclusion—all the way to the top including board of directors.

Place job ads in sources (e.g., websites and e-newsletters) consulted by minority groups and targeted to a particular audience. Examples include the Association of Latino Professionals for America and the Black Career Women’s Network. Take advantage of specialized job boards that promote diversity, such as disabilityjobs.net or wehirewomen.com.

Include a statement on job ads that applications from minorities, veterans, people with disabilities, etc. are welcomed. Diversity should never be the final goal; it’s the outcome of efforts to cast a wide net for talent and to value the unique experiences and skills each individual brings. True workplace inclusion must be both a daily practice and a guiding principle deeply embedded into the workplace culture.

Organizations must also recognize that inclusion and diversity extends far beyond race, gender and sexual orientation to include age, abilities, veteran status, criminal history and even political differences. Inclusion benefits everyone, not just those in the minority or outside the mainstream.