A Message from CASE on Racial Justice in America

June 2020

Dear CASE Community,

Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. Whiteness weaponized against Christian Cooper. Disproportionate impacts of COVID-19 on people of color. A global health pandemic layered on top of the pandemic of racism that has scourged our country for far too long. And to think that past weekend – May 31 – was the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Ninety-nine years ago, there was unthinkable violence from whites against blacks. Ninety-nine years later, how much has that picture changed? 

As a white woman, I will never fully understand the fear, exhaustion and burden that people of color face every day. My anger and sadness will never compare. I’ve been struggling with what to say. What to think. What to do. But in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” and so silence is not an option either.   

As I and my team at CASE have muddled through these feelings over the past few days, we recognize our many privileges and the responsibility that those privileges entail. So, in addition to a statement of solidarity, we are also committing to action – sharing our thoughts on the levers that we have, the actions we have started to take, and how much more we have left to do.  Although I know that our actions thus far are far too minimal, we promised to share our journey in the hopes that we can inspire others to join us in the daily practice of being anti-racist:

Lever 1: Our thought leadership and practitioner platform. Through our work at CASE, we partner with and train impact organizations all over the world – from nonprofits to for-profits; from philanthropies to impact investing funds. With all of the best intentions, we seek to solve social and environmental problems. But, as we are too painfully seeing here in the United States, these problems are rooted in systems of oppression and even the best solutions are hindered by structural inequity. Equity and racial justice are not ancillary issues, but are root causes that underlie the problems we seek to solve. Root causes that we must seek to understand. Voices of those with lived experience that we must listen to and empower.

Actions & Initial Commitments: In 2018, we started engaging a Senior Fellow for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to guide our efforts in addressing the systemic barriers faced by impact entrepreneurs of color. As part of that fellowship, we have supported Aliyah Abdur-Rahman’s research over the last two years on how social entrepreneurship can be a lever for social justice when it centers the work of activist entrepreneurs. We have and will continue to add an equity lens to our own research projects to ensure that we are surfacing issues that embed bias. We have and will continue to amplify voices of leaders of color in our Executive Speaker Series. And we have also begun the work of diversifying our Advisory Councils and are determined to continue learning together.  

Lever 2: Training the next generation of business leaders. Another aspect of our work at CASE provides us with the privilege of training the next generation of leaders. Our students come from many races and ethnicities, geographies, religions and political ideologies. By continuing to provide thoughtful curricular programming and the space to discuss and try to understand inequity and each other’s unique perspectives, we aim to educate our students to be more enlightened leaders that understand injustice and their own biases, and then use that knowledge to drive to a better future. 

Actions & Initial Commitments: In 2019, our staff attended the Racial Equity Institute (REI) training and then hired REI to conduct workshops for our students so that they can understand the systemic racism present in the United States. We have and will continue to prioritize lived experience and to interrogate racial bias in our selection processes for programs and scholarships. We have and will continue to disaggregate our student programming evaluation data to check for gaps along racial, national and gender orientations. We have and will continue to ensure that mindsets, skills and habits that include racial equity analysis, empathy, and stakeholder orientation are part of the critical social impact competencies that drive our MBA programming. We are committed to deepening our students’ conversations about equity and engaging them more deeply in support of justice driven impact ventures.

Lever 3: Our own operations. Some of the most important work that we have been doing has been the silent work around listening and educating ourselves so that we can more authentically support and serve alongside communities of color. We are also examining our internal operations to see where we are perpetuating bias and can improve as we shift beyond reflecting to action.  

Actions & Initial Commitments: Our team has and will continue to engage in racial equity trainings, read and discuss articles and current events and broaden our networks to lift voices of people of color. We have also been working to change our hiring practices to be more equitable, including setting goals and working to build more racially diverse pools, transparently sharing salary ranges in our job searches and ensuring multiple people and perspectives are involved in the interview process. We have also started to transition our purchasing decisions to prioritize local businesses and those owned by people of color.

All of this is just a start and is not remotely enough. I and our team at CASE need to do much better at holding ourselves accountable to action and moving beyond listening and reflecting. And we need to ask ourselves tough questions, like what is our role in helping to build a more equitable future that dismantles oppressive systems and is guided by ethical and moral leaders?

We certainly do not have all the answers here at CASE – far from it. But what we do know is that we stand with the Black community in the United States in the fight to dismantle systemic racism. We know that we hear, value and support our students, alumni, peers and partners of color as they navigate a world that is stacked against them. We know that we at CASE can and must do better and hope that you will join us.  

Over the next months, we will continue to assess our programs and policies to identify the ways in which we are contributing to a system of injustice, what actions we can take, and how these commitments will show up in our FY21 plans. We will seek inputs from staff, board, partners and community members – and ask each of you to reach out with your ideas and feedback (case@fuqua.duke.edu). More to come and, as always, thank you to the CASE community for your support as we work together to create a better future.

To impact for all,

Erin & and the CASE team

For those of you who are on a learning journey as we are at CASE, we wanted to lift the voices of some people of color and share just a few of the resources that we are finding helpful in our journey:

These are, of course, just a starting point and we encourage you to continue to listen, learn, share and drive to action, as we do the same.