By 2012 Voices for Children in Nebraska had become increasingly alarmed by the racial disparities shown annually in its KIDS COUNT report. Voices pulled together a group of partners to look at disparities and determine how to make progress. The group, Partners for Race and Equity in Nebraska, decided to start with a statewide conference where they could highlight the racial history of Nebraska, look at the data, let the data drive the conversation, and have a meeting. Voices for Children in Nebraska served as the coordinator for the conference planning group. Voices led its conversations with data — disaggregated data in context. Initially, the partners had hoped to hold a conference in 2013, but disagreements over the approach made that impossible. Some members of the group wanted to focus on individual acts of bigotry, others wanted to address the institutional factors that foster inequity — the macro perspective. The discussions were difficult. To help align the stakeholders around a common vision to address structural racism, Voices brought in the Race Matters Institute (RMI). It took months of having the same conversations, along with RMI as a credible partner, to finally get everyone in agreement. Voices brought in RMI again in May 2014 for a strategic planning meeting to make sure leaders understood they needed to be intentional about advancing race equity by examining structural bias and to begin the process by engaging stakeholders in conversations. By the end of the day, they began planning for a conference in December 2014.
The two-day, statewide conference included key audiences across all sectors: funders, city council members, state legislators, board members of nonprofits, and a few members of the business community. At the conference, the partners introduced a racial equity impact analysis tool. The tool provides a set of guiding questions to determine whether existing and proposed policies, programs, and practices are likely to close the gap for specific racial disparities. The conference also offered a broad array of sessions that explored how disparities affect children of color and created a sense of urgency to help them. On the second day of the conference, the group created action steps, with guidance on moving forward.
While it is too early to say whether these steps will be pursued, Voices for Children in Nebraska and its partners continue to address structural racism. For example, in early 2015 the Voices President was invited to address the Nebraska State School Board. She presented data on race equity and discussed its effects on children of color, using disaggregated data and telling stories to show how children were suffering. One board member, who was widely viewed as being hostile to issues of race equity, was visibly moved by the presentation, saying he had no idea that systemic racism was producing such horrible outcomes for children of color. Voices offered to come back to the board and do a training on the seven steps to racial equity. The board unanimously agreed that they wanted to receive this training.