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Operational Assumptions

1.  To train teams of peer leaders is the most effective way to empower people to take leadership in reducing racism.

Often the greatest obstacle to taking action to address racism and other forms of discrimination is the sense that individual initiatives have a minimal effect in light of the enormity of the problem. NCBI's strategy to overcome this key obstacle is to train a corps of employees who reclaim power by leading concrete, replicable welcoming diversity/prejudice reduction workshops in a variety of work settings.

2.  Programs to welcome diversity require an ongoing institutional effort.

Too often, the only system wide effort to address diversity issues is briefings concerning civil rights statutes.  More needs to be done.  The most effective training teams include the participation of all employees, from the most senior administrator to the most recent recruit.

The establishment of proactive training programs that build strong intergroup relations are more effective than programs that respond only to specific incidents of racism or crises.

3.  There is a tendency for organizations to launch prejudice reduction programs only following a painful series of racial incidents. Although this response is understandable and at times appropriate, one may be left with the false impression that the primary goal of this work is to curtail overt acts of bigotry. An effective prejudice reduction program, however, must be much more than crisis intervention. The NCBI peer-training model offers a constructive preventive alternative to crisis intervention.

4.  Programs that welcome diversity need to include all of the visible and invisible differences found in the workplace [and classroom].

Racism in the U.S., particularly targeting historically underrepresented and by-passed minorities, must always be a primary focus of any prejudice reduction program. In addition, a major institutional effort to welcome diversity should be inclusive of the many visible and invisible differences among employees [and students], including nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, physical challenges, age, and socioeconomic class.

One of the more controversial issues in prejudice reduction work is whether to address a range of discrimination issues or to focus solely on racism. The concern of many anti-racism activists is that the inclusion of other issues can be used as a convenient tactic to avoid the more difficult work on racism. NCBI has found that the effectiveness of anti-racism work is actually enhanced by including a discussion of other institutionalized forms of discrimination.

5.  Prejudice reduction programs that are based on guilt, moralizing, or condemnation often rigidify prejudicial attitudes.  NCBI’s philosophy is, “guilt is the glue that holds prejudice in place.”

A great challenge in doing anti-racism work is avoiding two extremes; if people are targeted and required to label themselves as racists, sexists, etc., they can quickly become defensive and thereby lost to the work; if the programs are too comfortable, the hard issues never get raised and the racism goes unchallenged. NCBI's welcoming diversity/prejudice reduction workshop model strives for a proper balance by assisting participants to take risks and to raise tough issues without violating their own sense of integrity and self-worth.

6.  Anti-racism programs are most effectively conducted with a hopeful, upbeat, sometimes even raucous tone.

The effects of discrimination are serious, and therefore many mistakenly assume that effective anti-racism work requires a deadly serious approach. In fact, the most empowering NCBI programs left eager to fight against institutionalized racism have always included boisterous cheering and riotous laughter alongside more sober moments.

The text above was taken primarily the NCBI national website ( the North Carolina NCBI Campus Affiliate website, "Peer Training Strategies for Welcoming Diversity" (Cherie R. Brown and George J. Mazza, 1991), and other NCBI materials.

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