Shared Definitions

After completing this module, you will be able to:

1. Recognize the importance of shared definitions for racism and institutions
2. Explain how the “colorblind” approach to race is problematic

The tasks below will be automatically checked off once you complete watching the videos and taking the quiz.


Lesson 1: Start with a Shared Understanding

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Sharing Definitions

It is important that we have a shared definition of race within our organizations. When we don’t have a shared definition, different people may have their own definitions, which puts everyone at a different starting point for a conversation. Before we can begin to fix a problem, we have to define the problem. The definition for racism that we will use throughout this course is “personal racial prejudices, plus the power of an institution.”


As Maxine explains in the video, personal racial prejudices alone aren't enough to prevent someone from getting access to something. The limits of access is in the institution. Institutions are any entity that has a license to operate and serve the public. This includes the government, media, education, hospitals, churches, police departments and other organizations.



How often do you hear someone explain that they are “colorblind” when it comes to race? When people say this, they are usually trying to assert that they don’t see race or they don’t see color.

But unless we can recognize color, we cannot recognize that one color is preferred in America, which is white. There are barriers and limits to those who are not white. Until we can dismantle the original construct that has produced racism in our society and in our institutions, we cannot take a colorblind approach. We must first see color to understand how it has these impacts.


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Lesson 2: The Process

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There is a process in unpacking racism and understanding the way it is part of your organization. The first step shouldn’t be, “What do I do about it?” First, you have to define the problem so you can start down the path to a solution.

Reflection Questions
  1. Does your organization have a shared definition of racism? If so, what is it? If not, what steps do you feel you may need to take to determine a shared definition of racism?
  2. Maxine explains that colorblindness is a problematic approach to racism. What has been your experience with this approach? Have you ever taken this approach? What about those around you?
  3. Maxine and Wornie Reed both discuss the issues of racism in institutions. What are some examples of institutions? How have you seen racism in those institutions?
Action Steps

How can you take what you’ve learned in this module back to your organization? Read over the Action Steps for Module 1 and try to start working on these steps in the next week.

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