The Center for Progressive Reform’s commitment to justice started with our founding in 2002. Our founders were legal scholars at prominent U.S. universities, primarily white men and women, wanting to make a real difference in opposing conservative rollbacks of environmental regulations and public protections. It was a commitment to justice shaped by the legal perspective of rights, fairness, and law.
In June 2020, our Board of Directors committed to pursuing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice (DEIJ) as a moral and strategic imperative for our internal and external work. We set out to work with structurally marginalized communities, particularly low-income communities of color, which experience disproportionate harm due to centuries of societal, systematic oppression and discrimination that continue to endure and identify legal reforms that can build those communities’ power and influence in government. We also took a close examination of our own internal policies and practices that further or hinder this commitment.
Our explicit commitment to DEIJ was in response to the brutal murder of George Floyd by white police officers in May 2020, which forced a public reckoning by white-led institutions, including ours, across the country on their role in reinforcing systemic racism, inequity, inequality, and injustice. Since then, we’ve been working to move beyond aspirational commitments, to the implementation and adoption of operational and organization-wide policy changes in order to live out these commitments and ultimately become an anti-racist organization. This includes working to dismantle any form of white supremacy, discrimination, inequitable treatment, or bias toward all people but especially toward people of color, from our policies and programs. We center Black and Indigenous people in this work, due to the legacies of slavery, genocide, and cultural apartheid.
To establish a foundation for this work, the Center underwent a thorough DEIJ audit, which was conducted between July 2021 and October 2021, of our internal and external organizational commitments, practices, and approaches. We learned that while we have positive momentum, we’ve also failed to build and foster an environment that is inclusive to all people of intersectional identities and reflects the communities we serve. We still have much work to do to ensure DEIJ is meaningfully incorporated into every facet of our work, as well as the broader societal context, including academia, the legal system and law profession, and the nonprofit sector.
While our process has hardly been linear, we affirmatively acknowledge the insight by Board Member Ajulo Othow that DEIJ transformation is a journey, not an endpoint. The Center is still early in its DEIJ transformation journey.
To live out our organizational mission to “harness the power of law and public policy to create a responsive government, a healthy environment, and a just society,” we will transform our programs, actions, systems, culture, and foundational ethos through a DEIJ lens. We’ve created a DEIJ Steering Committee, which includes staff across all levels of the organization, to manage this process; however, thoughtfully and systematically incorporating DEIJ into all levels of our organization will require input and engagement from every member across the organization and ongoing investment.
According to Racial Equity Tools, a website dedicated to helping organizations and individuals achieve racial equity, “[a]ccountability is a keystone of racial equity work. Accountability…refers to creating processes and systems that are designed to help individuals and groups to be held in check for their decisions and actions and for whether the work being done reflects and embodies racial justice principles.” As we seek to hold ourselves accountable for this work, we commit to publicly sharing our DEIJ goals and timely updates.
Our goals over the next year are to:
Our Process: Listening, Learning, Responding, and Evolving
We are deeply committed to making actionable changes to advance our goals by:
Through the lens of DEIJ, by meaningfully listening, learning, responding, and evolving, we will position ourselves to most effectively and thoughtfully achieve our vision of a government that uses the full force of its legitimate power to curb climate change and ensure a sustainable environment, economic justice, and healthy workplaces and communities for all, and in particular for Black and Indigenous people, who have been unjustly excluded from and historically harmed by our government and other social institutions. We will also work to dismantle white supremacy in law, policy, and our public institutions so they better reflect our nation’s hallowed ideals of freedom, equity, and justice for all. This statement is supported by all of our staff and affirmed by the Center’s Board of Directors.