Ending racism, building peace

By Geoffrey Diesel and Kathy Doherty, co-founders of the Racial Equity Project

The two of us met as Rotary Peace Fellows during the inaugural cohort of Peace Activators in North America. We made a commitment to provide training, education, and support to the Rotary family on the framework of Positive Peace. The initiative grew out of Rotary’s strategic partnership with the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a global think tank dedicated to measuring Positive Peace defined as the “attitudes, institutions, and structures that uphold peaceful societies.”

Peace activators in the US were already addressing racism in this country, but the murder of George Floyd in 2020 served as catalyst for further action. In October of that year, we co-founded the Racial Equity Project (REP), a subcommittee of peace activators in North America, committed to studying ways to create a more peaceful society through antiracism.

“End Racism. Build Peace” is the focus of this year’s United Nation’s International Day of Peace on 21 September. We are grateful for the work Rotary International is doing in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) by creating a DEI Task Force in September 2020. In 2022, the Task Force strengthened Rotary’s 2019 DEI statement supporting a more comprehensive commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition, Rotary is using IEP’s eight Pillars of Positive Peace framework to foster equity for people of all races, religions, genders, and abilities. This is being done through community service projects applying Rotary’s areas of focus to strengthen those pillars.

The eight pillars must function both individually and in unison to effectively sustain positive peace. Racism is a form of violence that manifests as both direct and structural violence. We believe achieving racial equity requires sustained commitments across all of the eight pillars. To illustrate how we apply the Acceptance of the Rights of Others pillar to racism, The Racial Equity Project developed an infographic that demonstrates our research on the impact of racial inequity in the United States (where REP is based).

Our research on the disparities between Black and white Americans led us to further examine our systems and their relationship to these inequities. Since the areas of focus and the eight Pillars of Positive Peace are essential to peacebuilding, we took a deeper look into how these models could better intersect with DEI and peacebuilding to address racism.

For example, what does it really mean to be diverse? Not only racially, but ethnically, by gender, class, and ability? Are we creating a true sense of belonging not only in our Rotary communities, but in our communities at large, both locally and globally? Are we including communities impacted by our service projects in the decision-making processes? Are we truly fostering equity, or are members of our communities being moved to the margins? And if so, how do we disrupt the status quo and create access and equity for those who are marginalized?

Achieving racial equity cannot be separate from the notion and implementation of Positive Peace. So how can the Rotary community influence this? This is difficult work, but it is our work.

We can start by becoming more informed and taking action to end racism. The eXtension Foundation Impact Collaborative states, “Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.” To change something, we need to understand it.

Let’s ask more questions and consider the implications of structural racism in our communities. Let’s make this a lifelong learning process, central to our service in Rotary, creating more equitable access, opportunities, and outcomes for all.


Geoffrey Diesel and Kathy Doherty completed their Rotary Peace Fellowships at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand. They and the Racial Equity Project team have worked with a number of Rotary clubs, providing training and presentations on Positive Peace and racial justice at a variety of levels including presidents-elect training seminars, the Rotary International DEI Task Force listening tour, and Toxic Polarization training for senior Rotary leaders.

To learn more about positive peace, enroll in the Rotary Positive Peace Academy course.

7 thoughts on “Ending racism, building peace

  1. This essay is a perfect example of DEI-speak in that it uses a lot of words without definition to the point of meaninglessness. Rotary is an organization dedicated to ending polio and providing clean water, worldwide. By definition, that is the greatest focus one can have on “marginalized” communities.

    Let us ask a question: if you believe in “antiracism” (whatever you believe that to mean), then would you agree with the following two statements:

    1. I believe that people should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character; exclusively.

    2. I believe that Asian-American students should be treated in college admissions exactly the same as Black and Hispanic applicants; period.

    I would suggest that if you have trouble with either of these statements or need to split hairs in answering them, you are, by definition, a “racist”. You may feel that you are a “good racist” or an “anti-racist” or an “equitable” or “redistributive” racist. But you are a racist, attempting to use race against other people in order to make yourself feel better. The human race has a long history of such programs and it never ends well. It creates more racism instead of less racism.

    As a 25yr trial lawyer in state and federal courts, I am well versed in dealing with people that want to avoid answering direct questions and try to deflect with language that sounds like an answer but really isn’t one. I look forward to your thoughts, preferably in plain English.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and thank you for your great question.
      I agree with your two statements as well as others that fellow Rotarians have about DEI, inequality and bias.

      As a Rotarian I believe in the Rotarian Code of Conduct that states:
      As a Rotarian, I will
      1) Act with integrity, and high ethical standards in my personal and professional life.
      2) Deal fairly with others and treat them and their occupations with respect.
      3) Use my professional skills through Rotary to: mentor young people, help those with special needs, and improve people’s quality of life in my community and in the world.
      4) Avoid behavior that reflects adversely on Rotary or other Rotarians.
      I believe that our Rotary DEI program is align with our Rotarian Code of Conduct.
      Thus I feel comfortable is using the Rotarian Code of Conduct in addressing conflicts.

      Furthermore, I see conflicts as opportunities and catalysts for constructive change.
      And our Rotary values, principles and approaches are the reasons I am a Rotarian, and why I believe Rotarians are positive thinkers as peacebuilders.

      Again, I appreciate your question and views that opened my mind and thinking as a Rotarian.
      Peace.

      Dennis Wong
      Rotary E-Club of World Peace, club committee chair, Social Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
      Rotary Action Group for Peace, co-founder
      International Cities of Peace, NGO representative to the United Nations

      Like

  2. Great Idea.
    Yes, I like this Positive Peace approach to Ending Racism and Building Peace.
    I thank Geoffrey and Kathy for thinking about and applying our Rotary values, principles, and approaches to our mission and vision to create peace.

    I will add “Equitable Distribution of Resources” and “Good Relations with Neighbors” to “Acceptance of the Rights of Others” to my to-do list as DEI and Social Justice club chair. There needs to be policies and behaviors that are fair and beneficial to all.

    Furthermore, to my fellow Rotarians, consider including our Rotarian Code of Conduct, and remember to lead by example.

    As Rotarians, let us transform conflicts for constructive change and lasting peace — across the globe, in our communities and in ourselves. Go Rotary.

    Like

  3. Kathryn congratulations on this very important component for DEI. Tge equity graphic with how it is correlated to the eight pillars of Peace is very useful for any discussion on the topic.
    Gratitude for your important much need d work on racism.
    Would you be willing to be a guest speaker for my Rotary club on zoom?
    Dr. Vicki Radel
    PDG 5280 Los Angeles
    Creator of 4 part Peace Education series Becoming More Peace Filked: Based on RI DEI statements and philosophy since inception and including strategic Positive Peace ☮️

    Like

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