National States Strategy for Racial Equity 

This is a critical time for state governments to strengthen their efforts to advance racial equity. 

State of Equity has teamed up with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) to cultivate a community of state government leaders and to develop a national strategy for advancing racial equity in state governments. 

States are fundamental in the fight for social justice. States help funds and policies flow between federal and local jurisdictions, and can play a key role in supporting equitable and healthy communities. 

While racial justice advocates have primarily focused on local and federal governments, opponents of racial justice are increasingly targeting their attacks at the state level. Opponents have introduced dozens of state legislative bills that would ban racial equity work in government and education. 

Across the country, extremist groups are using intimidation, misinformation, and violence to try to reverse progress towards an inclusive, multiracial democracy. As a result, some city, state, and federal government agencies have stopped trainings and initiatives designed to advance racial equity. 

Our work is guided by input from state practitioners about the challenges and opportunities for advancing racial equity through their work. 

In 2021, State of Equity convened over 20 leaders from 8 states, as well as research institutes, membership organizations, and national nonprofits to identify the structures, practices, and networks needed to amplify racial equity work in state governments. Participants said they needed a community for state-level racial equity practitioners, capacity building, and a coordinated states strategy. 

In 2022, 60 state government leaders from 10 states gathered and identified three action areas for 2023: 

  • Create shared language and understanding of why this work is important and the role of state practitioners 
  • Build internal infrastructure for changing government, including developing “belonging” opportunities for staff 
  • Build networked infrastructure for sustained capacity and effective community participation. 

In 2023, through a contract with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, State of Equity assessed the landscape of attempts to restrict the advancement of racial equity at the state government level and the landscape of work to mitigate these attempts as well as proactively advance equity. The resulting presentation shares initial findings, which are based on more than 30 stakeholder conversations, extensive internet research, a brief literature review, and information brought to light during several group gatherings. The presentation also gives an overview of initial recommendations for a national strategy for advancing racial equity through state governments and thoughts about key partners. 


    This work is also guided by many partners.

    Our States Strategy Steering Committee includes the Government Alliance on Race and Equity at Race Forward, State of Equity at the Public Health Institute, and Needle Strategies, LLC. 

    Click here to read about “The Bigger We”: How the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) and State of Equity are working together to build a national states strategy for racial equity!  

    The Advisory Committee for convenings in 2021 and 2022 included representatives of Demos, Ford Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, PolicyLink, Race Forward, State of California, State Innovation Exchange, State of Vermont, and Urban Institute. Practitioners from California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, and Utah informed convenings and research in 2023.  

    Support for this work is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

    Leaders from States Across the Nation Have Participated:

    “As federal and local racial equity work grow, State of Equity is a key strategic partner spearheading crucial state level work. There is no whole-of-government approach without building work at the state level. This means the success of State of Equity is essential to the success of our movement for racial equity in government. We are grateful and honored to work with such a thoughtful, creative, and committed group of people and look forward to working together for years to come.” 

    Cathy Albisa, Vice President for Institutional and Sectoral Change, Race Forward

    Inspirational images from the graphic recording of the first states meetup in December 2021 (artist: Abby VanMuijen).