Founded in 1981, the Applied Research Center (ARC) is a “racial justice” think tank with offices located in New York, Chicago, and Oakland (California). Viewing the United States as a nation where “structural racism” is deeply “embedded in the fabric of society,” ARC seeks to “build a fair and equal society” by demanding “concrete change from our most powerful institutions.” To help transform the “systems” and “structures” that allegedly give rise to racism, ARC has established three major programs:
* The Racial Justice Leadership Action Network has trained thousands of activists, journalists, community organizers, and elected officials in techniques by which they can aggressively “confront … the color line.”
* The Media and Journalism program strives to “deliver stories that are not reported elsewhere, move people to action in support of racial equity, and push a society silenced by guilt and confusion toward concrete discussions of racial justice in the 21st century.”
* The Strategic Research and Policy Analysis program publishes both “quantitative and qualitative” research reports that “expose structural inequities” in American society and provide information designed to “help researchers, activists and policymakers” in their quest to advance “racial justice campaigns across the nation.”
ARC’s major research areas include the following:
* Poverty & Welfare: “In the United States, people of color are more likely [than whites] to be poor,” says ARC. “However, the social safety net is no longer strong enough to catch those who fall through the cracks.” The only way to end poverty, the organization contends, would be to “addres[s] the root causes of inequitable [wealth] distribution” by fundamentally transforming America’s capitalist system while expanding the scope of redistributive social-welfare programs. ARC strongly opposes welfare-reform efforts like the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 – which moved millions of formerly dependent people into jobs where they were able to earn their own way instead of being the wards of American taxpayers – as measures that unfairly “punis[h] the poor.”
* Economy & Green Jobs: To address the fact that “communities of color consistently are unemployed, hold less wealth [than whites], and are on the brink of poverty,” ARC seeks to “narrow the racial wealth divide and create good, green jobs for all that can sustain our communities and the environment.” Such an objective is consistent with ARC’s belief that it is government’s responsibility to “pu[t] millions of people into good jobs.”
* Education & Youth: While emphasizing “the importance of closing the gap on racial disparities in education” and “exposing the inequities that afflict U.S. public schools,” ARC firmly rejects school vouchers as a means of achieving these goals. In ARC’s calculus, vouchers have a “racist history,” provide “minimal safeguards for racial fairness,” and “allow practices that have a racist impact.” Moreover, ARC complains that voucher programs siphon vital funds away from supposedly cash-starved public schools.
* Health & Health Policy: Lamenting that “people of color are more likely [than whites] to not have insurance,” ARC has long exhorted government officials to “expand public health programs such as Medicaid”; “work toward [implementing] a universal health care system”; and “improve health care in medically underserved areas, which are often communities of color.”
Immigration: ACR’s “Drop-the-I-Word” campaign “seeks to eliminate the widespread usage of the inhumane and racially derogatory word ‘illegal’ in reference to immigrants as a way to prevent further punitive and racist public policies.” Condemning “conservative rhetoric” that is “racist,” “dehumanizing,” and “discriminatory,” ARC contends that “the current immigration debate … is entirely about race” – i.e., that it is fueled by white people who “promote anti-immigrant sentiment and encourage fear and division” because they themselves “fear [that America will become] a browner nation.” ARC likewise accepts the notion that there occurred a dramatic rise in hate crimes against Muslims and Middle Easterners in the U.S. post-9/11, though strong empirical evidence indicates otherwise.
Twice each year, ARC hosts a “Facing Race” conference which is billed as America’s largest multi-racial gathering of organizers, activists, and intellectuals “committed to change” in the areas of race and politics. Among the noteworthy guest speakers in 2010 were Tim Wise and Van Jones.
To further promote its views and agendas, ARC publishes Colorlines.com, a daily news website that features “reporting, analysis, and solutions to today’s racial justice issues.” As ARC tells it, Colorlines “covers stories from the perspective of community, rather than through the lens of power brokers.”
Rinku Sen is ARC’s president and executive director, as well as the publisher of Colorlines. In addition to Sen, ARC’s governing board includes members who have also been affiliated with such organizations as the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Center for Community Change, the Funding Exchange, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, Queers for Economic Justice, the SEIU, The Nation, and UNITE-HERE.