The Groundwater metaphor is designed to help practitioners at all levels internalize the reality that we live in a racially structured society, and that that is what causes racial inequity. The metaphor is based on three observations:
- racial inequity looks the same across systems,
- socio-economic difference does not explain the racial inequity; and,
- inequities are caused by systems, regardless of people’s culture or behavior.
Embracing these truths helps leaders confront the reality that all our systems, institutions, and outcomes emanate from the racial hierarchy, on which the United States was built. In other words, we have a “groundwater” problem, and we need “groundwater” solutions. Starting from there, we begin to unlock transformative change.
This paper was developed to be used as a tool to deepen both individual understanding of the need for systemic change, as well as a tool for facilitated group learning and development.