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Advancing Equity & Undoing Racism

The work of advancing equity and anti-oppression in the anti-violence movement is pivotal to ending the intergenerational cycle of violence, but unfortunately this work has not always been prioritized in our field.

The work of advancing equity and anti-oppression in the anti-violence movement is pivotal to ending the intergenerational cycle of violence, but unfortunately, this work has not always been prioritized in our field. In 2020, in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, a coalition of 46 DV and SV State Coalitions, led by the Washington State DV Coalition Against DV, made a statement as “a moment of reckoning,” not only for our society, but for our movement.  

The statement reads 

“We, the undersigned sexual assault and domestic violence state coalitions call ourselves to account for the ways in which this movement, and particularly the white leadership within this movement, has repeatedly failed Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) survivors, leaders, organizations, and movements: 

We have failed to listen to Black feminist liberationists and other colleagues of color in the movement who cautioned us against the consequences of choosing increased policing, prosecution, and imprisonment as the primary solution to gender-based violence. 

We have promoted false solutions of reforming systems that are designed to control people, rather than real community-based solutions that support healing and liberation. 

We have invested significantly in the criminal legal system, despite knowing that the vast majority of survivors choose not to engage with it and that those who do are often re-traumatized by it. 

We have held up calls for “victim safety” to justify imprisonment and ignored the fact that prisons hold some of the densest per-capita populations of trauma survivors in the world. 

We have ignored and dismissed transformative justice approaches to healing, accountability, and repair, approaches created by BIPOC leaders and used successfully in BIPOC communities.” 

Advancing equity begins with accountability and repairing harm and this statement was a first step in the right direction, but more must be done every day to continue the work of centering BIPOC communities and those most impacted by violence. In order to continue to repair harm, we must also address the root causes of violence: racism, classism, oppression, structural inequities, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, xenophobia, colonialism and imperialism, among many others. Promising Futures holds Equity as a Guiding Principle, where we believe that, Fostering equity in anti-violence work requires intentional and strategic approaches that utilize an anti-oppression framework. Individuals often proceed unconsciously to maintain the status quo without a critical understanding of the nature of privilege and each of our roles in maintaining it. Changing this paradigm requires intentional examination and challenging what we think we know at every level – personal, organizational, systemic and societal. Because parent and child survivors impacted by family violence have intersecting identities and face multiple oppressions simultaneously, responses must include strategies and activities that reflect these complex realities. (Promising Futures Guiding Principles)

Anti-Racism as Violence Prevention

FUTURES’ National Health Resource Center has also developed the following videos and discussion guides, which are intended to be used by domestic and sexual violence advocates and activists. The videos help spark conversations on the ways that racism and oppression have shaped our anti-violence movements and how we can dismantle racism in our organizations and communities. In these videos, you will hear from advocates and organizers who discuss their own experiences, perceptions, and journeys of practicing anti-racism as a means of ending gender-based and intimate partner violence. We invite you to view these videos with an open heart, on your own or with others. 

For White people watching these videos, it is beneficial and important to sit with any feelings of discomfort, listen to feelings, stories, and perspectives of people of color, and move towards repair, action, and accountability. 

If you have feedback about your experience using this set of resources or suggestions on how they can be improved, please share your thoughts with us! For questions about these videos and accompanying materials please contact Kate Vander Tuig at

Video 1: Connecting the Dots: Racism, Oppression, and Work to End Domestic, Sexual, and Intimate Violence

Video 2: Racism in the Anti-Violence Movement: Impacts on Survivors, Advocates, and Communities

Video 3: Transformation is Now: Toward an Integrated, Intersectional Movement

Habits of White Supremacy

Another helpful framework to advance equity in your personal life and organization is Tema Okun’s Habit’s of White Supremacy, a tool for understanding our systems and behavior. Based on her article, White Supremacy Culture, written in 1999,  Tema Okun wrote this paper after a frustrating consultation with an organization she was working with at the time. She believes that “while white supremacy culture affects us all, harms us all, and is toxic to us all, it does not affect, harm, and violate us in the same way. White supremacy targets and violates BIPOC people and communities with the intent to destroy them directly; white supremacy targets and violates white people with a persistent invitation to collude that will inevitably destroy their humanity.” Below is a small excerpt of the habits and their antidotes – these are examples directly from Tema’s paper. For the full article read here. 


  • Little appreciation expressed among people for the work that others are doing; appreciation that is expressed usually directed to those who get most of the credit anyway  

  • More common is to point out either how the person or work is inadequate

  • Antidote: develop a culture of appreciation, where the organization takes time to make sure that people’s work and efforts are appreciated

Sense of urgency:

  • Continued sense of urgency that makes it difficult to take time to be inclusive, encourage democratic and/or thoughtful decision-making, to think long-term, to consider consequences, or learn from mistakes

  • Frequently results in sacrificing potential allies for quick or highly visible results, for example sacrificing interests of communities of color to more quickly win victories for white people (seen as default or norm community)

  • Antidotes: realistic workplans; leadership which understands that things take longer than anyone expects; discussion and planning for what it means to set goals of inclusivity and diversity, particularly in terms of time


  • The organizational structure is set up and much energy spent trying to prevent abuse and protect power as it exists rather than to facilitate the best out of each person or to clarify who has power and how they are expected to use it

  • Because of either/or thinking (see below), criticism of those with power is viewed as threatening and inappropriate (or rude)

  • Antidotes: understand that structure cannot in and of itself facilitate or prevent abuse; understand the link between defensiveness and fear (of losing power, losing face, losing comfort, losing privilege); work on your own defensiveness

Quantity over quality:

  • All resources of organization are directed toward producing measurable goals 

  • Things that can be measured are more highly valued than things that cannot, for example numbers of people attending a meeting, newsletter circulation, money spent are valued more than quality of relationships, democratic decision-making, ability to constructively deal with conflict 

  • Antidotes: include process or quality goals in your planning; make sure your organization has a values statement which expresses the ways in which you want to do your work; make sure this is a living document and that people are using it in their day to day work

Worship of the written word:

  • If it’s not in a memo, it doesn’t exist 

  • The organization does not value other ways in which information gets shared

  • Antidotes: take the time to analyze how people inside and outside the organization get and share information; figure out which things need to be written down and come up with alternative ways to document what is happening

Only one right way:

  • The belief there is one right way to do things and once people are introduced to the right way, they will see the light and adopt it  

  • When they do not adapt or change, then something is wrong with them (the other, those not changing), not with us (those who ‘know’ the right way) 

  • Antidotes: accept that there are many ways to get to the same goal; once the group has made a decision about which way will be taken, honor that decision and see what you and the organization will learn from taking that way, even and especially if it is not the way you would have chosen


  • Those with power assume they are capable of making decisions for and in the interests of those without power 

  • Those with power often don’t think it is important or necessary to understand the viewpoint or experience of those for whom they are making decisions 

  • Those without power do not really know how decisions get made and who makes what decisions, and yet they are completely familiar with the impact of those decisions on them

  • Antidotes: make sure that everyone knows and understands who makes what decisions in the organization; make sure everyone knows and understands their level of responsibility and authority in the organization; ; include people who are affected by decisions in the decision-making; make sure everyone understands the budget (because if you understand the budget, you understand a lot) 

Either/or thinking:

  • Things are either/or — good/bad, right/wrong, with us/against us

  • Creates conflict and increases a sense of urgency, as people feel they must make decisions to do either this or that, with no time or encouragement to consider alternatives, particularly those which may require more time or resources 

  • Antidotes: notice when people use ‘either/or’ language and push to come up with more than two alternatives; notice when people are simplifying complex issues, particularly when the stakes seem high or an urgent decision needs to be made 

Power hoarding:

  • Little, if any, value around sharing power 

  • Those with power feel threatened when anyone suggests changes in how things should be done in the organization, feel suggestions for change are a reflection on their leadership 

  • Antidotes: include power sharing in your organization’s values statement; discuss what good leadership looks like and make sure people understand that a good leader develops the power and skills of others 

Fear of open conflict:

  • People in power are afraid of expressed conflict and try to ignore it or run from it 

  • When someone raises an issue that causes discomfort, the response is to blame the person for raising the issue rather than to look at the issue which is causing the problem 

  • Antidotes: role play ways to handle conflict before conflict happens; distinguish between being polite and raising hard issues; don’t require those who raise hard issues to raise them in ‘acceptable’ ways, especially if you are using the ways in which issues are raised as an excuse not to address those issues


  • Little experience or comfort working as part of a team

  • Accountability, if any, goes up and down, not sideways to peers or to those the organization is set up to serve 

  • Antidotes: include teamwork as an important value in your values statement; make sure the organization is working towards shared goals and people understand how working together will improve performance; evaluate people’s ability to work in a team as well as their ability to get the job done 

I’m the only one:

  • Connected to individualism, the belief that if something is going to get done right, ‘I’ am the one to do it 

  • Little or no ability to delegate work to others 

  • Antidotes: evaluate people based on their ability to delegate to others; evaluate people based on their ability to work as part of a team to accomplish shared goals 

Progress is bigger, more:

  • Observed in how we define success (success is always bigger, more) 

  • Progress is an organization which expands (adds staff, adds projects) or develops the ability to serve more people (regardless of how well they are serving them) 

  • Antidotes: create Seventh Generation thinking by asking how the actions of the group now will affect people seven generations from now; make sure that any cost/benefit analysis includes all the costs, not just the financial ones, for example the cost in morale, the cost in credibility, the cost in the use of resources 


  • The belief that there is such a thing as being objective or ‘neutral’  

  • The belief that emotions are inherently destructive, irrational, and should not play a role in decision-making or group process 

  • Antidotes: realize that everybody has a world view and that everybody’s world view affects the way they understand things; realize this means you too; push yourself to sit with discomfort when people are expressing themselves in ways which are not familiar to you 

Right to comfort:

  • The belief that those with power have a right to emotional and psychological comfort (another aspect of valuing ‘logic’ over emotion)  

  • Equating individual acts of unfairness against white people with systemic racism which daily targets people of color 

  • Antidotes: understand that discomfort is at the root of all growth and learning; welcome it as much as you can; deepen your political analysis of racism and oppression so you have a strong understanding of how your personal experience and feelings fit into a larger picture; don’t take everything personally