Racial & Gender Equity

The Next Rollback Project

From the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County v. Holder), to the 2022 overturning of Roe v. Wade (Dobbs v. Jackson) and the 2023 overturning of Affirmative Action (Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard), unprecedented rollbacks in civil rights and democratic protections are increasingly common. They are hastening the need for critical research on the phenomenon of retrenchment, understood as the structured rollback of a civil right or democratic protection that serves to entrench systemic racism and intersectional oppressions. The Next Rollback project uses leading-edge methods in data science and mathematical modeling to document trends in policy rollbacks that unfairly target and disadvantage marginalized populations. It is a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional initiative that fosters collaboration among researchers working across social inequality research fields and supports innovative thinking on social change through data justice work. 

Unmasking Design Bias in Legal Research Databases

This project documents the structural barriers built into the design of legal research databases and the connections between these barriers and systemic racism in the US. Under the Police Misconduct Provision, 34 U.S.C. sec. 12601, for a person to raise a claim of officer misconduct they must show “a pattern or practice of conduct by law enforcement,” not just evidence of a particular instance of misconduct. This standard of documentation is designed to be structurally difficult to achieve and thus makes the threshold of proof for discriminatory action by police nearly unattainable. This project highlights the structural interrelation between legal research databases and formal (public and government) sources of police misconduct information. It shows the burden to provide evidence of racial discrimination on a systemic or statistical level of ‘patterns’ is regularly placed on communities of color by design, and that the most valuable tools at our disposal are also designed to be color-evasive so as to hamper efforts to document discrimination. Unmasking Design Bias in Legal Research Databases sounds the alarm on the coming wave of new evidentiary burdens and hurdles marginalized populations will face in proving civil rights infractions in courts, and it seeks to respond to this problem by addressing barriers in legal research databases through advocacy.

Systems Change Working Group

The Systems Change Working Group is a transdisciplinary cohort of academics, grassroots organizers, advocates, industry leaders, policy stakeholders and community members who are building a framework for enabling long-lasting societal impacts on issues of systemic racism and intersecting oppressions. Drawing on RISC foci in structural change and adaptive systems responses, the group develops scalable models of intervention strategies that respond to structurally inequitable policies and practices. Using a team science approach facilitated by converging and synergistic uses of diverse knowledge, expertise, and user-centered design strategy, the group produces forward-thinking analysis and innovation on structural oppression and systems change.

Sara’s House Detroit

Sara’s House Detroit is a family domestic violence shelter that serves predominantly Black and Brown women and children in the Detroit area. It is the only shelter currently offering long-term housing solutions and is working to build a holistic infrastructural support approach to unhoused survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence and their children. RISC works to support capacity building and resource development for Sara’s House. 

Mapping Credibility Redlining Zones (MaRZ)

Credibility redlining is a RISC framework that refers to the withholding and gatekeeping of services and remedies to survivors of sexual assault based on police determination of an “unfounded” police report. The project uses geo-mapping techniques to document place-based patterns of “unfounded” reporting that disproportionately affect BIPOC communities. It sounds the alarm on the coming wave of AI tools for discriminatory credibility assessments in policing and the legal system as well as the design bias underlying these tools.  

The Searchlight Project

The National Crime Information Center’s (NCIC’s) Missing Person and Unidentified Person Files–the national dataset for missing persons–disaggregates race into five reporting categories: Asian, Black, Indian, White, and Unidentified. There is no category for Hispanic or Latino/a/e/x. Police Departments who use Hispanic are inconsistent in their use, sometimes disaggregating the category from White and sometimes not. To complicate matters, national advocacy organizations like Black and Missing do not use Latino/a/e/x categories and explicitly exclude Hispanics from the missing minority/people of color group. These inconsistent approaches to social demographic data in missing persons research and advocacy have hampered efforts in raising awareness about the large number of missing Brown and Latino/a/e/xs in the US, particularly Brown migrant women and girls. The Searchlight Project addresses this problem by 1) documenting the racist history of the racialization of US Latino/a/e/xs under demographic terms meant to reproduce whiteness and 2) building a national database of missing Brown women and girls in the US. 

Grassroots of Color Consortium

Grassroots social justice organizations in the US are powerful drivers of change. The National Center on Charitable Statistics estimates the failure rate of nonprofit organizations at over 30% within the first decade of operations. The likelihood of failed organizational impact for smaller nonprofits and grassroots organizations that serve BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities is even greater. The Grassroots of Color Consortium creates and supports mutual aid infrastructures between grassroots organizations in Detroit and provides platforms for project-based cooperation among local organizations. It profiles the work of Detroit-based 501c(3) organizations and provides a networking ecosystem in which local organizations can achieve mission-driven success and make measurable impacts in the greater Detroit area.