Topos Commitment to Racial Justice
Racism and bias continue to hold people back in every area of life – from health to education, employment, housing and criminal justice – and tensions related to race continue to infect public discourse on every policy issue in the U.S.. To help promote racial justice, Topos seeks to understand how various populations think and feel about questions related to race, and to develop communication approaches that combat inequities, division and hopelessness. We maintain that true progress depends on finding constructive common ground that explicitly acknowledges systemic barriers and injustices — and the need to dismantle them — while defusing the defensiveness and resentment that currently derail so much dialog.
At Topos, deep listening and transcending or bridging differences are in our DNA. We are cultural anthropologists, cognitive linguists, opinion researchers, civic engagement practitioners and activists. Our professional orientation is all about understanding culture and deeply held world views, including pervasive and implicit racial biases, in order to shift dialog in constructive directions.
This perspective deeply informs our research methodology, which includes connecting with people who are often ignored in “traditional” research methods, and whose stories too often go unheard. For example, our use of ethnography allows us to gain authentic insights on a variety of issues by hearing the voices of people from men who are homeless in Baltimore to the elderly in Appalachia to millennials in California. This method forces us to leave assumptions behind and listen deeply to people’s concerns, worldviews, and experiences.
Justice across many lines
While race continues to be the most profound divider in our country, there are also other important factors – gender, class, sexual orientation, disability and so forth – that can lead to exclusion, limiting people’s opportunities, power and life chances. The Topos approach to communications strategy and research brings in voices that often go unheard, so that advocates can work effectively toward justice across society.
This is not only the right thing to do, it is necessary to winning the culture change we seek.
While the ethnographic approach has historically sometimes been used in exploitive or extractive ways that have served the interests of outsiders at the expense of researched groups, this method can also be applied in ways that provide voice, agency and other benefits to communities where research is conducted.