January 18, 2021 - Podcast

Episode 79—Cultural trauma, and policy to address inequity

Recent, horrific events in the Black community involving police violence against both Black women and men have served as a catalyst for national attention. But as of yet, there is no measurement tool to measure Black males’ perception of cultural trauma and racial justice. Clinical social worker and IU professor Virgil Gregory Jr. is working to address that issue by developing a scale to measure cultural trauma in Black men as it relates to racial justice. Recently, the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have led to national protests and calls for state-level and national policy change to address social injustice in Black communities. To determine the thoughts and beliefs about racial injustice and cultural trauma among Black men, as well as their strengths of resilience in response, Gregory and his team are working with the Fathers and Families Center, which provides services to primarily African American, at-risk fathers and their families, to create focus groups and conduct individual interviews. Researchers will analyze the content of those focus groups to help develop a Cultural Trauma Scale that will serve as a tool to gather data on the perceptions of the justice system as it pertains to members of the Black community; self-perception based on race- and justice-related events, and future-oriented perceptions of safety concerning Black family members in relation to the justice system. Virgil says his project will aid in effectively measuring the catalysts for and consequences of racial injustice that Black men continue to face.

As government agencies look to reevaluate policies and determine how to address institutional sources of inequity, IUPUI professor Breanca Merritt is developing an assessment tool for local government agencies to use in gaining a better understanding of systemic racism in their initiatives. This tool will ultimately help agencies understand how to better facilitate equitable outcomes through policy design and implementation. Merritt says a lot of people understand that racism is a problem, but they aren’t clear on what they are doing to contribute to those issues and what they can do to prevent such negative outcomes. There are many layers to why government decisions don’t support equitable outcomes for communities of color, she says, and Merritt’s tool will help government agencies of all sizes determine where their baseline is for racial equity and what they can do to improve. Agencies will use a rating scale to assess their performance in six areas: agency or program mission, goal clarity, policy design, leadership/managerial skills, capacity building and accountability. Merritt says understanding how public agencies and their employees navigate and implement policy is key to addressing and changing institutional sources of inequity.