Initiative for Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability

IARA is working at the intersection of community, academia, and policy to address intellectual and practical questions as they relate to anti-racism policy, practice, and institutional change.


The Initiative for Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability is a newly formed initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Shorenstein Center. The goal of this enterprise is to use research and policy to promote anti-racism as a core value and institutional norm.

While diversity and inclusion work is an important step in this process, anti-racism work encompasses demographic change at every level of the institution in conjunction with the adoption of anti-racist institutional norms, values, and practices.1 For profound transformation of institutions, diversity and inclusion work is not sufficient when addressing structural processes that are rooted in traditions of racial exclusion and privilege and/or which discriminate based on group disparities.

Implicit bias training, for example, helps uncover the problem of racial prejudice and racist stereotypes among individuals but it does not answer the question of how to change institutions whose policies and practices are based on racist ideas. Individual awareness of bias is one thing; institutional transformation based on that training is something else.

Our Program:

The Initiative for Institutional Anti-racism and Accountability believes in working at the intersection of community, academia, and policy to address intellectual and practical questions as they relate to anti-racism policy, practice, and institutional change. In order to create and sustain change, the goal of this initiative is to promote anti-racism as a core value for organizations by critically evaluating structures and policies within institutions. The initiative aims to analytically examine the current field of anti-racism with a lens on research and innovation, policy, dialogue, and community involvement.

Our vision is to be a leader in institutional anti-racism research, policy, and advocacy, and propose structural change in institutions and media centered on anti-racism work in the public, private, non-profit sectors and digital space. This work will focus on researching existing organizations that conduct anti-racism training and development while analyzing their effectiveness and promoting best practices in the field. Additionally, we will study the implementation of anti-racism work among institutions that self-identify as anti-racist and promote accountability structures in order for them to achieve their goals.

Our Team:

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Faculty Director, Professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the Suzanne Young Murray Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies.

Professor Muhammad is the former Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a division of the New York Public Library and the world’s leading library and archive of global black history. He is the author of award-winning The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America (Harvard), and contributor to a National Research Council study, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (2014). He serves on a number of boards, including the Vera Institute of Justice and the Museum of Modern Art.

Dr. Suraj Yengde, Post-doctoral Fellow

Dr. Yengde noted public intellectual who is active in caste and race studies in the US and India. Educated in four continents, Dr. Yengde brings diverse experience of anti-racism advocacy as a human rights practitioner and attorney. Suraj is involved in developing the Fourth World Project Think Tank, a consortium of historically oppressed groups. He is a co-editor of The Radical In Ambedkar Critical Reflections published by Penguin Random House, 2018, and author of the forthcoming Caste Matters to be published by Penguin Random House, 2019. Having worked and researched in Asia, Africa, and North America, Dr. Yengde will provide a global perspective on the work and his expertise in caste and race with a focus on parallels in US structures is a vital lens for our work

Erica Licht, Research Assistant, MPA student at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Erica has been engaged in social and racial equity research and training for the last decade. She is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School and prior served as Assistant Director at the Center on Culture, Race, and Equity at Bank Street College in New York City. Her career has focused on collaborative community and organizational development programs, including consulting with the Center for Creative Leadership in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and as a Fulbright Scholar in Lagos, Nigeria.

Dr. Miriam Aschkenasy, Program Manager

Miriam Aschkenasy is a board-certified fellowship trained Emergency Medicine Physician and an expert in global humanitarian response and operations in low resource settings. She has a Master’s in Public Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, with a certificate in Management, Leadership, and Decision Science. After obtaining her MPA, she shifted focus to work on issues of institutional and historical racism. Dr. Aschkenasy has worked extensively both within academic institutions, and with national and international organizations including Oxfam America, The World Health Organization, International Medical Corps, American Red Cross, and the Centers for Disease Control on operations and program implementation.

Recent and Upcoming IARA Programming:

Robin DiAngelo talk – co-sponsored with the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative

Book Launch events for Dr. Suraj Yengde’s new book “Caste Matters”
Speaker Series with Dr. Yengde, September 24, 2019 at 12pm
– Book Launch Reception, September 24, 2019 at 5pm

Please Do Not Include Us convening on race and discrimination in AI – co-sponsored with the Technology and Social Change Research Project

Truth & Transformation convening on institutional anti-racism – co-sponsored with the Ash Center

Undesign the Redline exhibit on racism in housing – co-hosted by the Weiner Center

Professor Khalil Muhammad’s Recent Work:

2nd Edition of “The Condemnation of Blackness,” published by Harvard University Press, July 2019.

The History of Dissent in American Political Live,” interview on NPR’s All Things Considered

Mass Incarceration,” interview for an episode of NPR’s Throughline Podcast

Why Police Accountability Remains Out of Reach,” essay in the Washington Post (excerpted from The Condemnation of Blackness)

The Barbaric History of Sugar in America,” essay for the New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project

Other Center Research on Race and Equity

Can Cities Save the Census? A Local Framework for Our Nation’s First Digital Count
April 1, 2019
By Kyla Fullenwider, Shorenstein Center 2018/19 Entrepreneurship Fellow, and Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville, Kentucky

Estimating the Effect of Asking About Citizenship on the U.S. Census
March 21, 2019
By Matthew A. Baum, Bryce Deitrich, Rebecca Goldstein, and Maya Sen

In the Shadow of Kerner: Fifty Years Later, Newsroom Diversity and Equity Stall
May 22, 2018
By Farai Chideya, Joan Shorenstein Fellow, Spring 2017, and Program Officer, Ford Foundation

Exploring the Role of Algorithms in Online Harmful Speech
August 10, 2017
By David Talbot and Jeff Fossett

Snake and Stranger: Media Coverage of Muslims and Refugee Policy
June 22, 2017
By Meighan Stone, Entrepreneurship Fellow, spring 2017, and former president of the Malala Fund

How Women Journalists Are Silenced in a Man’s World: The Double-Edged Sword of Reporting from Muslim Countries
June 19, 2017
Yeganeh Rezaian, Joan Shorenstein Fellow (fall 2016) and Iranian journalist, formerly of Bloomberg News and The National

Rape Culture in India: The Role of the English-Language Press
July 20, 2016
By Joanna Jolly with additional reporting by Uzra Khan