From the Eliminating Structural Racism Subcommittee

Prepared by Scott Frank, MD, MS and Colleen Walsh, PhD

What We Did

The Eliminating Structural Racism (ESR) subcommittee designed and distributed an online survey among active HIP-Cuyahoga consortium members (n>300) intended to assess the readiness for perspective transformation in the workplace. Respondents were largely 35-60 years (n=52, 76%); had significant minority representation (n=24, 36%); had representation from all priority working groups; and had more than 2 years of experience with HIP-Cuyahoga (n=33, 48%). Racial Awareness items (27 items) were analyzed using factor analysis and reliability testing to create 3 distinct, meaningful Racial Awareness scales: Racial Cognizance (8 items), Readiness for Perspective Transformation in the Workplace (7 items), and Personal Experience of Racism in the Workplace (5 items).

Why It Matters

Racial cognizance represents the realization that race makes a difference in people’s lives and helps shape US society. It acknowledges the importance of racial differences and racialized outcomes or experiences in the workplace.  Incognizant racism is the idea that the status quo or dominant view is not questioned; a reluctance to admit to and face racist behavior; and an acceptance of reality based on the existing social order. Perspective transformation is the process of becoming critically aware of how and why people’s assumptions limit the way they perceive, understand, and feel about the world and how they act on this understanding. As such, racial cognizance is necessary to perspective transformation, but it is not enough. Both one’s readiness to address structural racism in the workplace, and the extent to which we allow ourselves to observe everyday racism as it occurs will determine how and whether we will act.

What We Found

Respondents demonstrated substantially higher levels of Racial Cognizance (mean = 3.4/4) than Readiness for Perspective Transformation (mean =2.9/4) and Personal Experience of Racism in the Workplace (mean =2.7/4). Racial Cognizance and Readiness for Perspective Transformation were higher among younger respondents and those involved with the ESR subcommittees or with two or more HIP-Cuyahoga committees. Higher Racial Incognizance was noted among those in a position of strategic leadership. There was little difference in Racial Awareness across different levels of workplace roles or responsibility. Those who are already more racially aware were the ones who advocated for more education in structural racism, equity, perspective transformation, explicit and implicit bias, and privilege and oppression. Higher racial cognizance was associated with interest in policy regarding criminal justice and education. Perhaps most importantly, respondents who had participated in a one-day equity workshop showed significantly higher scores on racial cognizance, readiness for perspective transformation and personal experience of racism in the workplace.