As the United States undergoes major demographic, cultural, and generational change, the old forces of racism and exclusion are resurgent. Hate crimes are on the rise nationwide, according to the FBI, and hate speech towards Muslims and immigrants is increasing. At the same time, systemic racism is being made visible by a new generation of activists, creating an urgent opportunity for action. But this moment of opportunity has to be matched with evidence and experience. What works best in promoting greater inclusion in our cities and communities?
We know that racism, like other forms of exclusion, exists in the mind of people, and can therefore be changed and measurably reduced. But most approaches to reducing racism and exclusion do not account for the emerging evidence about what works and what does not, and do not set up processes to examine which underlying cognitive and perceptual mechanisms can be used to effectively address this challenge. Since racism and exclusion are pervasive and multi-faceted challenges, we will be taking a multi-pronged approach, and developing first-ever baseline measures of the psychological factors that drive racism so we can track progress over time.
In the coming months, the Beyond Conflict Innovation Lab will focus on an array of projects to combat racism on multiple fronts. We will pioneer new approaches to better measuring and reducing racism in the City of Boston in support of a major leadership development and dialogue initiative, which we hope will become a national model to build inclusion in major cities. This multi-year Boston Equality Initiative will be an incubator for many of our first-ever metrics on racism. Additional work in this area will include developing studies to better understand how to preempt the onset of racism in 3-5 year-olds; translating what we know about the science of dehumanization, understanding how it contributes to discrimination and sharing recommendations on how to address it; and developing and testing evidence-based messages to reduce Islamophobia.