As racial tensions rise across the U.S., many communities are breaking out in civil unrest. The historical roots of racism run deep, and its pernicious effects can be seen in our criminal justice system, our schools, our healthcare system, and our environment. By studying relationships marked by racial injustice—like those between law enforcement and minority students, racial segregation and urban ecology, or COVID-19 and vulnerable populations—scholars at the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs are researching ways to create a path toward transformative, sustainable change.
O’Neill School researchers explore racial justice
Issues of racial equity are not contained to one policy arena; rather, these issues permeate health, education, housing, environmental policy, and more in the United States and countries around the world.— Amanda Rutherford, Associate Professor and Director, Undergraduate Honors Program
Forthcoming racial justice research
With seed money from IU’s Racial Justice Research Fund, O’Neill faculty are taking on today’s pressing issues.
School safety—for some
Seventy percent of students in the U.S. report having a police officer or security guard in their school—but it’s unclear whether their presence is making students safer or loading the school-to-prison pipeline. Amanda Rutherford will study the effects of school-based policing on educational outcomes.
Race-based inequities in urban forestsThroughout the U.S., people of color have less access to urban trees than white residents—and less access to their benefits, like stormwater regulation, improved air quality, and aesthetic enjoyment. Sarah Mincey will lead a team of researchers in creating an inventory of Indiana’s urban tree quantity and quality, assessing race-based inequities in public, urban forests across Indiana cities.
Mapping environmental justice
People of color are more likely to live in communities located near landfills and hazardous waste sites, more likely to be affected by lead hazards in their soil and water, and less likely to live near green spaces and public parks. As a step toward environmental justice, David Konisky and Janet McCabe plan to use a mapping tool to identify areas in Indiana overburdened by these risks.
Police training as reform
Recent police brutality against Black Americans has sparked calls for reform and a renewed interest in the types of training police officers receive. Jill Nicholson-Crotty will study whether problem solving, mediation, and de-escalation techniques yield different outcomes than more aggressive forms of training.
Racial disparities in PPP loans
The Paycheck Protection Act (PPP) offered a lifeline to small businesses that were hurt by COVID-19 lockdowns. However, it’s not clear that Black-owned and white-owned businesses benefitted equally. Candace Miller will couple PPP loan data with community demographics and qualitative interviews from business owners in Detroit to research ways that seemingly race neutral policies can sometimes reinforce racial disparities.
Scholarship toward sustainable change
Another long hot summer
Much like 2020, riots and civil unrest plagued American cities during the “long, hot summer” of 1967. To uncover lessons from the past, Matthew Baggetta used public opinion data to explore the opinion gap between white and Black subgroups and the structure of public support around the Civil Rights Movement.
Environmental impacts of redlining
Redlining has left many urban neighborhoods across the U.S. scarred by segregation and poverty. It’s had environmental impacts, too. Burney Fischer and Donovan Moxley, MPA-MSES’18, used GIS to study its ecological legacies in Indianapolis and found evidence of effects like lower tree canopy coverage and higher incidences of brownfield, Superfund, and industrial waste sites.
Race and public administration in practice
In Race and Public Administration (Routledge), Amanda Rutherford compiled research on public education, policing, and healthcare to offer current and future civil servants practical, research-based tools to navigate the interactions of policy, race, and ethnicity.
Import competition and hate crimes
Since 2000, the number of recorded hate groups in the U.S. has increased by more than 50 percent. Alberto Ortega found that areas hardest hit by permanent normal trade relations with China experienced more anti-Black hate crimes and a rise in the number of active hate groups.
Stories from the middle class
Jennifer Silva examines the stories of Black, Hispanic, and white middle class Americans to help us bridge the nation’s longstanding divides. She conducted a qualitative study of the hopes and anxieties of the American middle class surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Community organizations addressing racial injustice
Brad Fulton examines how coalitions of racially diverse organizations work together to promote racial justice both internally and in the public sphere. A Shared Future describes the coalitions’ journeys of moving away from a “race neutral” framing of their work into a systematic “racial equity” framing, which is critical for advancing racial justice initiatives.
Race and asset forfeiture
Law enforcement organizations seize billions of dollars every year from people based on demonstrated or suspected connections to criminal activity. Sean and Jill Nicholson-Crotty studied asset forfeiture in 2,278 municipal police departments between 1993 and 2007—and found that race plays a significant role.