Dismantling Systemic Racism

Stand for Children’s name comes from a quote by Rosa Parks, who was an honorary co-chairperson of our founding event, Stand for Children Day, on June 1, 1996. Over 300,000 individuals attended this rally in support of children’s rights. Ms. Parks said, in honor of the event, “If I can sit down for justice, you can stand up for children.”

Since its formation, Stand has achieved over 209 state and local victories and leveraged over $6.7 billion in education investments. The policies and investments we have secured are improving the lives of more than 5.6 million children. We are proud of these gains, but cognizant of the deep disparities remaining in our education system, particularly those brought about because of systemic racism.

In its FY2020-23 Strategic Plan, Stand has expressly committed to join the fight to dismantle systemic racism. Here in Illinois, we are doing so by examining the polices we champion, the family engagement programs we deliver, the civic action we encourage, the elected officials we support, and the organizations we partner with, to make sure we are doing our part to stand up against systemic racism. This is a journey of learning, reflection, and action.

We hope you’ll stand with us.

What is Systemic Racism?

Race is a social and political concept, not a scientific one. Were race real in terms of genetics, racial classifications would remain constant across boundaries and countries. Despite this fact, the social, political, and economic consequences of race are very much real and have led society to view people of other races as “different” and unequal. The reality is that what we have in common far outweighs our differences as human beings.

“Systemic racism” refers to a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work to perpetuate inequities across racial groups. Inequitable systems, institutional racism, discriminatory practices, and implicit bias continue to limit access and widen the opportunity gap between groups of students. Stand believes systemic racism can be addressed if more institutions and individuals are deliberate in acknowledging its existence and abidingly committed to ending it.

Learn more about systemic racism and its far-reaching effects.

  • Watch this video by The Root to take a crash course on redlining and its implication on housing, education, and criminal justice.
  • Read this article in the Chicago Tribune about the struggle to adequately staff African American and Latino schools.
  • Read this article in the Atlantic to see how a legacy of systemic racism has put prosperity out of reach for many in Chicago.
  • Read this article from WBEZ News about how the boundaries drawn in Illinois and across the country have forced millions of students into racially dense and underfunded systems.
  • Check out the programs at Chicago Regional Organizing for Antiracism (CROAR), a group which aims to dismantle systemic racism and build antiracist multicultural diversity within institutions and communities.
  • Visit the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama to learn how America’s history of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation has resulting in policies that have legally marginalized, disadvantaged and mistreated people of color, particularly African American men.

Recommendations for further learning:


  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • The Pigeon HAS to Go to School by Mo Willems
  • Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
  • Monster by Walter Dean Meyers
  • I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Returnable Girl by Pamela Lowell


  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
  • Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique Morris and Mankaprr Conteh
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Tatum
  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa


Additional books for explaining racism and protests to children. 

Systemic Racism Explained video 

How Privileged Are You? Quiz


TV & Film




If you’re a member of Stand and would like to suggest additional readings, please contact us at ILinfo@stand.org.

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