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Better Together: Executive Summary

Better Together: Executive Summary

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Published by: Applied Research Center on Oct 25, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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September 2010
Executive Summary 
Better Together
Research Findings on the Relationship betweenRacial Justice Organizations and LGBT Communities
Funded by 
 Applied Research Center: Better Together
Executive Summary 
In partnership with the Arcus Foundation, the Applied Research Center (ARC) has undertaken a study o therelationship between racial justice organizations and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGB) constituenciesand issues, with the understanding that communities o color themselves, including their LGB members,have a good deal at stake in strengthening that relationship. Te inquiry included a survey o 81 organizationso color and interviews with 32 leaders o racial justice and LGB organizations.Te study was motivated by three aspects o the national political landscape.First, racial justice groups and LGB constituencies would seem to be naturally connected. Signicant numberso LGB people are o color, thereby comprising an important part o the racial justice constituency. Second,despite these empirical connections, the political and popular linkages are not widely known or acted upon.Such distance reinorces widespread assumptions, noted by activists interviewed or this study, that LGBidentity and politics are or white people and that communities o color, housing ew i any LGB peoplethemselves, are disproportionately homophobic. Tird, LGB people o color are harmed by the perceived splitbetween communities o color and LGB communities. Dozens o young, local organizations serving LGBpeople o color do exist, but they are virtually invisible, poorly supported and oen too busy providing criticalhealth and human services to engage deeply in education and organizing or policy change. Likewise, inspiringrelationships between racial justice groups and LGB constituencies also exist but are so little known that theirmodels see too ew replications.In this study, ARC set out to answer our questions:
How do racial justice groups currently engage LGB constituencies and equity issues?
What are the barriers to strong engagement o racial justice groups in LGB issues?
Where are the opportunities or greater engagement?
What changes can unders and people working in the elds o racial justice and LGB rights pursue?
Study Components
We answered these questions through two means. First, we surveyed 81 organizations, including 41 sel-identi-ed racial justice groups and 40 LGB groups explicitly ocused on people o color. We ollowed up the survey by interviewing 32 LGB activists who are working to strengthen the connection.
Key Findings
In national, state and local racial justice organizations, important work is already underway that engages LGBpeople and issues. Te best work emerges rom strategic political analysis. Most projects start with internaldiscussion and political education, and develop through issue campaigns to change policies and institutionalpractices. Some o this engagement is quite mature. Furthermore, there is signicant interest among racial justice organizations in integrating LGB issues, but they cannot learn rom others’ experiences because thesestories receive relatively little attention rom the media and other institutions.We ound large numbers o local organizations working directly with LGB people o color whose inuencecould grow with proper investment. Some racial justice organizations made explicit decisions to work on LGBissues (even at the cost o religious unding), and there was a general openness to exploring how LGB people
September 2010
experience traditional racial justice issues such as police violence and workplace discrimination. Tese are someo the things that unders and activists can ocus on in order to strengthen the constituencies or both racial justice and LGB rights.A number o barriers to efective engagement also emerged. First, study participants, particularly interviewees,noted a lack o strategic clarity—and tools or getting to such clarity—that would help groups identiy and acton the many opportunities or applying a sexuality lens to racial justice issues and vice versa. Second, commu-nity resistance, either real or perceived, was mentioned with a great deal o nuance. Tese concerns included therole o religious institutions, the seeming lack o demand rom communities o color themselves, and the earo causing division within racial justice memberships. Although this study did not primarily address the role o mainstream LGB organizations in reinorcing the community’s supposed whiteness, it did arise enough thatwe included some thoughts rom interviewees on this question. Finally, unding constraints arose as the mostsignicant barrier or groups that do wish to engage.None o these obstacles is insurmountable, and there are compelling reasons to address them explicitly over thelong term. When racial justice groups, including those ocused on LGB people, take on the intersection o raceand sexuality, they can build enduring political power to make the policy and practice changes that improvecommunities nationwide.
Key RecommendationsRecommendation 1: Increase support for groups of color
Funders should increase their support o LGB organizations o color, as well as o collaborations betweenLGB and racial justice groups.A. Fund and support LGB organizations o color.1. Provide general support grants.2. Provide capacity-building grants.3. Raise the visibility o LGB organizations o color in philanthropic and media venues.B. Fund established and emerging collaborations between racial justice and LGB groups.1. Fund convenings, explorations and ull-out collaborations.2. Bolster the evaluation and learning systems in the organizations that sponsor these projectsto provide lessons or the eld as a whole.3. Fill the gap or racial justice organizations that reuse unding rom anti-LGBreligious institutions.
Recommendation 2: Invest in tools for strategic clarity 
Changing national policies like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; Don’t Ask, Don’t ell; or statepolicies around same-sex marriage is important. But these are not the only important issues, particularly orLGB people o color, and there are compelling reasons to expand the list o issues and to strategize aroundthe specic experiences o LGB people o color regarding employment discrimination, military policies andmarriage laws.
Support the generation o data that specically address the needs o LGB people o color.B. Support partnerships between research intermediaries and community-based organizations.

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