Improving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Through a Race Equity Lens: A Toolkit For Juvenile and Family Court Judges


This toolkit is designed to equip juvenile and family court judges with effective strategies and tangible action plans for enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) within the court system. Drawing on a trauma-informed perspective, the toolkit aims to employ a race equity lens to de-emphasize the perspectives and power of majority populations, instead promoting a more inclusive, equitable approach.

DEIB are foundational principles that commit to a culture where every individual is recognized, included, and treated with fairness. They highlight the significance of diversity in identities, viewpoints, and experiences, and stress the importance of equitable opportunities and resources. In the judicial context, DEIB principles are critical for many reasons: they encourage impartiality by mitigating non-conscious biases, facilitate a broader understanding of the diverse experiences and backgrounds of the communities served, and enhance public trust in the judiciary. Ultimately, the implementation of DEIB principles within the court system not only fosters equitable justice, but also bolsters the legitimacy and credibility of the judiciary.

Further enriching these DEIB principles, the integration of trauma-informed practices within the judicial system offers an essential complement to this commitment. The public health response to trauma, or “universal precautions,” recognizes that traumatic experiences are common and can profoundly influence an individual’s mental and physical health, behavior, and engagement with the justice system. Much like DEIB principles, trauma-informed courts seek to establish an environment that fosters safety, trust, choice, collaboration, and empowerment, while actively minimizing the risk of re-traumatization. The intersection of DEIB principles and trauma-informed practices results in a more holistic approach to justice—one that respects and responds to the diverse, complex experiences of all individuals. This approach not only supports more informed, empathetic decision-making but also bolsters public trust, contributing to a judicial system that is genuinely equitable, inclusive, and fair.

The Critical Importance of Understanding the Impact of Colorblind Racism on Court Decision-Making

Color Blindness: Regulating Race in the Post-Civil Rights Era

In order to develop and implement DEIB strategies that can improve court outcomes, judges must utilize an implicit bias framework to screen for potential biases in written documents, verbal communications, and interactions with all who appear before them. Judges must be mindful that colorblindness was first presented as a strategy to end racism, but instead it should be understood as a system of strategies developed to preserve and protect racial hierarchies in the post-civil rights era. Ideologies of colorblindness obscure, control, and regulate the public and private discourses on race and set the necessary conditions for colorblind laws and social policies that enforce patterns of inequality. Many policy and legislative decisions that could have led to real equality after the Civil Rights Act was passed were derailed by this new strategy.

Colorblindness did not end racism; it effectively preserved America’s racial hierarchy. The new colorblind strategies controlled how race would be discussed for decades to follow by creating a new racial discourse and mandating the terms for public discussions about race. The core principle of colorblind policies was that America was no longer racist, which set in motion a set of restrictions to obscure the continuation of racist practices. Using this strategy, public discussions of race or racism were disallowed, and people who violated the conditions of colorblindness were deemed the problem, not racism itself.

The New Colorblind Ban-Anti-Critical Race Theory

Colorblindness is a ubiquitous racial strategy that has permeated all aspects of social and political life. Colorblind strategies set the terms for how race would be discussed for decades from 1964 to 2020, by regulating the terms of the public discourse on race. But in 2020 after the murder of George Floyd, people from all over the world witnessed and protested the police brutality of a man being killed by a police officer kneeling on his neck for nine minutes in broad daylight in America. The fragility of colorblindness was exposed.


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