Community Engagement vs. Racial Equity
Can Community Engagement Work be Racially Equitable?
Keywords:institutional transformation, engaged institutions, critical analysis, educational equity
The literature on the transformation of higher education institutions into engaged institutions identifies the great potential this transformation can have on higher education’s ability to address pressing social issues. However, engagement work frequently operates in White racialized spaces and within systems that perpetuate racial oppression. A lack of critical reflection on this phenomenon may lead to racially inequitable or racially exclusive institutional transformation. If an understanding of racial equity work within community engagement does not occur, we run the risk that the transformation into engaged institutions will include some and not others, and those decisions will likely fall along racial lines. The purpose of this article is to identify and discuss four key findings based on a critical analysis of the ways in which the literature on transformation via engagement addresses issues of racial equity. The analysis leads to a discussion of the implications of the lack of connection between racial equity and community engagement. Most importantly, the overarching question of my own future research in this area is not if there is racial equity work taking place in community engagement initiatives, but how racial equity work is done in community engagement initiatives.