Discussing the New U-M Center for Racial Justice

The Center for the Racial Justice (CRJ), housed in the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, launched in August, 2021 to explore, analyze, and understand how public policies have undermined or advanced the goal of racial equity. Racial justice, as the CRJ’s website states, is the systematic fair treatment of people, regardless of racial background, that results in equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone. 

Celeste Watkins-Hayes, associate dean for academic affairs and founding director of the Center for Racial Justice at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, joins this episode of Michigan Minds to discuss the CRJ’s mission and plans for its first year, engagement opportunities for the campus community, and upcoming public events. Watkins-Hayes is also the Jean E. Fairfax Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, and a professor of sociology.

“We are grounded in research and we also want to support the changemakers who advocate for sound, just and fair public policies each and every day. We really think of ourselves as a unit that is focused on research, but in fact, much of our work is outwardly facing through our events, through bringing together changemakers who are doing really interesting work out in the realm of racial justice, who are working at that intersection of race and public policy, and to really create a hub and opportunity for people to get together and share information, push research agendas, challenge conventional ideas, and to ultimately think about solutions as we think about racial justice,” she says.

One of the things the CRJ will focus on in its first year, Watkins-Hayes explains, is the Racial Foundations of Public Policy series, which is focused on the historical roots and the impact of race in shaping public policy. They are also hosting a Masterclass in Activism event which will feature Dr. Johnetta B. Cole, and they are planning numerous student-focused initiatives. 

“What you’ll hear and what you’ll see in the Center for Racial Justice is this very deep commitment to evidence-based work and to research, but then thinking about how do we take that out into the world? How do we think about community engagement? How do we think about policy influence? How do we think about activism? How do we think about all of those different tools that people use for social change and how can the Center for Racial Justice be a conduit for that?”

In this conversation, Watkins-Hayes also discusses her research in racial, economic, and gender equity and delves into what the rising inequality means for the ability of people to move up the economic ladder. Tune in to hear more.