About Us

Institute Group Photo|
Vision Statement: Inquiry and praxis for advancing racial and intersectional justice

Established in January 2009, our mission is:

  • To promote the establishment of empirical, theoretical and methodological clarity about "race" that draws on cutting-edge thinking from multiple disciplines and diverse empirical traditions
  • Promote clarity about race, racialization that builds on the insights of multiple disciplines
  • Develop strategies for ameliorating race-based inequality

We place "race" in quotes to underscore its nature as a socially constructed category of social status in particular historical contexts, rather than as a reified category that is essential or fixed.

Despite the fact that "race" is neither rooted in biology (or genetics) or fixed in time and space, racial inequality persists and often remains at the root of socioeconomic inequality, health disparities and other measurements of social stratification in the United States.

Racism is a major factor in determining one's health in our society, as it translates into persistent stress, associated illness and prolonged suffering or premature death.

Over the centuries, American Indians, African Americans and Latinos have suffered from severe racism in various forms, and they experience the poorest health status as a result.

Objectives of the Institute

  • Provide best practices expertise (i.e., empirical, theoretical, methodological) and consulting to researchers in the natural and social sciences seeking to incorporate racial variables and racialization processes and dynamics into their studies.
  • Provide expertise and consulting community members and policy-makers at the tribal, state, county and municipal levels for measuring (assessing) and ameliorating (addressing) racial disparities; create successful research partnerships between the university and surrounding local and national communities.
  • Foster an institutional context for ongoing scholarly conversations about the empirical, theoretical and methodological understanding and empirical study of "race."
  • Nurture research agendas of UNM faculty as they relate to mapping and interrupting racial disparities and promoting equity and social justice in health and community viability, education, law and criminal justice.


Nancy López PhD  



What’s your street race? If you were walking down the street what race to you think strangers would assume you are based on what you look like? The beauty of this question is that it challenges the myth or race as biology, genetic ancestry or culture and instead focuses on race as social relationship of power that is not just about your personal identity. Our research shows that when you use the street race measure in studies about inequality you can make visible inequities that would otherwise remain hidden if we only ask about how you identify (López 2014; López et al., 2018; Vargas et al., 2019).


It’s always important to include at least two questions when asking about race: 1.) How do you identify; and 2.) How do you think others see  your race? Equally important is making sure that you mark one box when asked about your street race. Think about why President Obama marked one box in the 2010 Census and the Civil Rights use of that data to detect housing, health care access and employment discrimination. If President Obama were walking down the street looking for an apartment or if he showed up in an emergency room with symptoms of appendicitis would anyone think he’s white?   


Another challenge is the ways in which race and ethnicity are confused. In 2018 I wrote an essay entitled “The Census Bureau Keeps confusing race and ethnicity. There I talk about street race as the social meanings assigned to the conglomeration of your skin color, hair texture, facial features and how those of us interested in understanding everyday racism should not just ask about ethnicity or cultural background. We also need to ask about street race. For example, if we ask about some’s race or ethnic origin in one question and the person says, Cuban, Puerto Rican or Mexican, and stop there, we may miss an opportunity to find out if Puerto Ricans who are light-skinned and probably not seen as Black or Brown are treated differently from those who are their siblings but may be seen as Black or Brown when walking down the street. Only when we critically assess our own street race can we begin the journey of shifting to understand the experiences of others who may be members of the same family but assigned different street races in their everyday interactions. Hopefully through everyday critical reflection about street race, we create bridges of understanding, empathy, unity and solidarity. I hope that the street race measure becomes a gold standard for all data collection that helps us map injustice and create a more just world anchored in human rights, not only for ourselves but also for our children, families and communities for generations to come.  



Vargas, E. D., Juarez, M., Stone, L. C., & Lopez, N. (2019). Critical ‘street race’ praxis: advancing the measurement of racial discrimination among diverse Latinx communities in the US. Critical Public Health, 1-11.

López, Nancy, Edward Vargas, Melina Juarez, Lisa Cacari-Stone and Sonia Bettez. 2017. “What’s Your “Street Race”? Leveraging Multidimensional Measures of Race and Intersectionality for Examining Physical and Mental Health Status among Latinxs.” Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. doi:10.1177/2332649217708798.

Innovative Multidimensional Measure of Race/Racialization as Analytically Distinct from Ethnicity or National Origin: “Street race” has been measured empirically in the following surveys: 2015 Latino National Health and Immigration Survey (N=1,473) RWJF Center for Health Policy; 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey (N=10,145); 2016 The New Landscapes of a Majority-Minority State: Politics, Economy, Health, and Well-Being in New Mexico (NLMMS) RWJF Center for Health Policy (N= 1,505); 2017-2018 Visibilizing AfroLatin@s: Measuring Race Among Latin@s, AfroLatino Forum Survey, New York (in progress). See also, Reyna, Chandra. 2018. “’Street Race’ and Health,” In Brief, Contexts 17(2): 4-7. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1536504218785907

López, Nancy. 2018. The US Census Bureau keeps confusing race and ethnicity, The Conversation, February 28, https://theconversation.com/the-us-census-bureau-keeps-confusing-race-and-<https://theconversation.com/the-us-census-bureau-keeps-confusing-race-and-ethnicity-89649>ethnicity-89649<https://theconversation.com/the-us-census-bureau-keeps-confusing-race-and-ethnicity-89649>
Republished in Salon, Associated Press, Newsela for teachers in K-12 Instructional Online Platform (Over 64K readers)

López, Nancy. 2017. Why the 2020 Census Should Keep Longstanding Separate Questions About Hispanic Origin and Race. Scholars Strategy Network. Last access 9/27/17:


López, Nancy. 2014. “What’s Your “Street Race-Gender”? Why We Need Separate Questions on Hispanic Origin and Race for the 2020 Census. RWJF Human Capital Blog. November 26, RWJF Blog, http://www.rwjf.org/en/blogs/culture-of-health/2014/11/what_s_your_street.html 

Street Race and Street Gender Questions used in 2016 The New Landscapes of a Majority-Minority State: Politics, Economy, Health, and Well-Being in New Mexico (NLMMS) RWJF Center for Health Policy (N= 1,505). 


López, Nancy. 2013. “An Inconvenient Truth: ‘Hispanic’ is an Ethnic Origin, not a ‘Race.’” Guest Commentary, August 24. National Institute for Latino Policy (NiLP). Last accessed 2/1/7 at: http://www.unm.edu/~socdept/pdfs/NiLP.pdf


López, Nancy, Christopher Erwin, Melissa Binder and Mario Chavez. 2017. “Making the Invisible Visible: Advancing Quantitative Methods Through Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality for Revealing Complex Race-Gender-Class Inequalities in Higher Education, 1980- 2015.” Special Issue: QuantCrit: Critical Race Theory and Quantitative Research Methods, Race, Ethnicity and Education, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2017.1375185.



Dr. Nancy López is professor of sociology, University of New Mexico. Dr. López co-founded/directs the Institute for the Study of “Race” and Social Justice and she is the founding coordinator of the New Mexico Statewide Race, Gender, Class Data Policy Consortium (Visit: race.unm.edu). Dr. López currently serves as Associate VP for the Division of Equity & Inclusion. Her scholarship and teaching are guided by the insights of intersectionality--the simultaneity of tribal status/settler colonialism race/structural racism, gender/heteropatriarchy, class/capitalism, ethnicity/nativism, sexuality/heterosexism as systems of oppression/resistance across a variety of social outcomes (education, health, employment, wealth and housing) and the importance of developing contextualized community-driven solutions that advance justice. Dr. López has been recognized for her contributions to engaged scholarship through the American Sociological Association William Foote Whyte Distinguished Career Award for Sociological Practice and Public Sociology. Dr. López has received funding from the National Institutes of Health that resulted in an edited volume, Mapping ”Race”: Critical Approaches for Health Disparities researchers where she talks about “pregnant while Black” and the racialized gendered social determinants of health. She is also coined the term “street race” as a measure of race the myth or race as biology, genetic ancestry or culture and instead focuses on race as social relationship of power that is not just about your personal identity (See conversation.com essay entitled the Census Bureau Keeps Confusing Race and Ethnicity and publications in Sociology of Race and Ethnicity and Critical Public Health Journals). Her current research funded by the WT Grant Foundation includes a mixed method study in three research practice partnerships that examines the role of ethnic studies curriculum and culturally relevant pedagogy in reducing complex intersectional inequalities in high school (Albuquerque, San Francisco and Los Angeles. She has served on over 75 PhD/MA committees and she given over 130 seminars on at national conferences, invited lectures and community gatherings. She a Black Latina, the New York City-born daughter of Dominican immigrants parents who didn’t have an opportunity to go beyond a second grade education but were rich in funds of knowledge and cultural wealth. She grew up in public housing and graduated from a de facto segregated public high school. Spanish is Dr. López’s first language; she participated in Head Start and Upward Bound both federally funded programs designed to equity lifts for those who have historically been excluded from educational opportunities.


Send an email to: listserv@list.unm.edu 

Leave the Subject field blank; make sure you delete your signature if you have one in the body of your email; there can be no other text in the email

In the body of message (with no other text) type: subscribe RACE_SOCIAL_JUSTICE-L Firstname Lastname. You will get an email notification that you're subscribed to the listserv

Be sure to keep us posted, too, because we want to share your news as well. Email events, conferences, announcements, etc. to race@unm.edu


Subscribers can remove themselves from the list by sending a message to:
  • listserv@list.unm.edu

    Leave the Subject field blank

    In the body of message type (with no other text):

    unsubscribe RACE_SOCIAL_JUSTICE-L