AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators

Jan/12

15

Kelly Robertson & Diane Rogers on Race or Racism? Value Implications & Practical Solutions

I’m Kelly Robertson and I am a project manager at The Evaluation Center at Western Michigan University and a student in the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Evaluation (IDPE). My co-presenter at AEA’s 2011 conference was fellow IDPE student and teacher, Diane Rogers.

The title of our presentation was, “Race or Racism? Value Implications and Practical Solutions.”  The content of this presentation can apply to most –isms and had two major focuses:

1) Importance of noting that race is being used as a proxy for institutional/systemic racism because race is a social construct and not scientifically fact;

2) and how to properly use race as a proxy for racism.

Lessons Learned:

Failing to note that race is being used as a proxy for racism and/or not using it properly as a proxy for racism, will likely mean that your work will lack rigor and implicitly value institutional/systemic racism.

While race is not scientific fact, racial stratification is real and controls access to resources such as land ownership and health care; thus, race should still be included within evaluation because until we can identify where racial disparities exist and the institutional/systemic factors that surround them, then these disparities cannot be addressed.

Hot Tips:

  1. Note race is being used as a proxy for institutional/systemic racism.
  2. Gather data and/or research on the institutional/systemic nature surrounding the evaluand; this is important to foster social change because stating that x’s have higher mortality rates than y’s doesn’t provide information on how to improve the mortality rate. Rather, pair results with institutional/systemic data such as access to insurance, proximity to hospitals, etc.
  3. Don’t use race as a causal variable or proxy for income, education, etc. even if they are correlated because it’s not race that is the cause but rather institutional/systemic inequities.
  4. Use caution when comparing racial data. When comparing data over time investigate the history of the measures since categories on instruments frequently change (e.g., U.S. Census). Recorded race is influenced by who identifies race (i.e., self-identification vs. observation) and thus, people’s recorded race may change from their birth to death certificate. The categories and number of categories individuals can choose are not standardized across all instruments.
  5. Do not assume all racial/ethnic experiences are universal.
  6. When designing instrumentation use self-report, allow individuals to identify with multiple categories, consider using open-ended classification, and if using pre-set categories then make sure you research the population to know which categories to include.
  7. Note methods and limitations regarding the use of race as a social construct in your report.

Rad Resource:

Check out our presentation in AEA’s e-library, or if you are an AEA member, our Coffee Break Webinar recording, to learn more and/or to access more resources on the topic.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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