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.