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This is the second blog in a 12-part series discussing evaluation in service of racial equity. Outlining knowledge of past and current systems of oppression.
Main focus is, Objectivity; an illusion that keeps us from acknowledging the importance of evaluation as a tool to advance racial equity. Part of the Equity-As-Practice blog series.
Why focus on myths? Myths are popular beliefs or traditions that are not true, but because these beliefs or traditions are passed along unchallenged, people start to believe they are true. Myths about key concepts in evaluation such as rigor and objectivity are shaped by our mental models' frames of how something works that guide our perceptions, behaviors and how we approach and relate to both other people and our surroundings. These mental models tint and narrow our view of the world we encounter.
Why focus on biases and systems? Everyone has racial biases, whether they like to admit it or not. They can have a stereotype positive or negative about a racial or ethnic group and when they meet someone from that group, they often treat that person differently without even realizing it. It is important to recognize that implicit biases are deeply rooted and that even individuals with the best intentions can have them. Good intention or not, racial biases can cause harm. And it is up to the individual feeling the bias to decide if it is harmful saying "that wasn't my intention" does not change the outcome for the person or community on the receiving end. This is why it is so important for us, as evaluators, to put in the time and work to uncover and address our implicit biases so we can better understand ourselves so can make better decisions and bring attention to others in our circles.
Why focus on engagement? The term community engagement is so easy to say. The term connects people with each other, and it seems so simple, so natural and so human. We place the term community engagement before a convening, meeting or act as a symbol of our good intentions (Chavis & Lee, 2015). It conjures images of neighbors making and delivering food to vulnerable residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, people of color advocating for equitable treatment of young Black men and residents at a county council meeting expressing their concerns about the lack of healthy and fresh food in the community. It is so common a term that we almost never define it or explain what we mean by it.
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