Introducing the KNOW Systemic Racism (KSR) Project

August 31, 2021
Felicia Smith
Stephon Clark Data Points Picture

You have heard the protest slogan:

  • No Justice 
  • No Peace 
  • No Racist Police

Well, in September 2020, in response to the global Black Lives Matter movement and drawing on the aforementioned slogan Stanford Libraries created the Say Their Names – No More Names exhibit that asks viewers to “Know Justice, Know Peace.” As Librarians, we are all committed to Information Literacy, which plays an essential role in society’s progress toward a more peaceful existence. Libraries are uniquely qualified to disseminate knowledge to information seekers who will be empowered to build a more just community. However, as an African American Librarian, I feel the awesome responsibility of a being keeper of the light and protector of our shared memories. I believe that before we as a society can “Know Justice” we must interrogate the racial injustices and atone for the destruction caused by white supremacy, before we can ever “Know Peace.”

The marathon continues, so now, in September 2021, Stanford Libraries entreat you to "KNOW Systemic Racism."

I am thrilled to announce that in my new role as the Inaugural Racial Justice and Social Equity Librarian, I have begun working full-time on our KNOW Systemic Racism (KSR) endeavor. This incredibly ambitious project was previously referred to as the Systemic Racism Tracker (SRT)This tool will enable users to discover factual data about interconnected systems that pose threats to people of African descent in the United States that have been shaped by racist policies and practices of institutions across centuries. It will also help people take action against these threats by knowing their rights and identifying government agencies and community groups that address systemic racism. 

KNOW Systemic Racism (KSR) will be unique in its focus on interconnections of discriminatory systems that impact different areas of people's lives.

We are dedicated to modeling Anti-Racist practices as we build this tool and conduct collection management tasks. We plan to center Black scholarship and try to avoid the problems caused by peer-review publishers’ gatekeeping which results in racial inequity for Black authors.

As an educational tool it makes perfect sense and has the following learning objectives. Using the KSR, people will KNOW: 

  • Systemic Racism Actually Does Exist
  • How Systemic Racism Interconnects
  • How to Help Fight Systemic Racism

When we add a workshop/conference series we will continue the “KNOW” branding and label them either "KNOW-It-All" Workshops or the "KNOW-shops." We will add personal narratives and oral histories in a section titled, "I KNOW Systemic Racism."

Stanford Libraries is supporting the mission of individuals working to end systemic racism by creating a searchable database—called KNOW Systemic Racism (KSR)—that helps people at Stanford and beyond to:

  • Discover and critically evaluate data regarding systemic racism against people of African descent across U.S. institutions,
  • Trace the historical formation and interconnections of institutional discrimination,
  • Take action by (a) knowing their rights and (b) identifying and connecting with government agencies, non-profit organizations, and grassroots groups that address racism. 

The KNOW Systemic Racism (KSR) tool will collect, digitize and archive data that is evidence of systemic racism, oral histories and personal narratives documenting discrimination for use in racial and social justice research. The KSR will also cultivate a local network of Stanford scholars and community organizers to identify ways to ameliorate racial discriminatory practices in the Bay Area.

Freely accessible to the general public, the KSR database will have a user-friendly web interface that is tailored to people with different needs and skill levels—from faculty to community activists, from individual citizens to classroom users. The intricate work of collecting, curating, and preserving data will be done by librarians, in concert with faculty advisors and our counterpart academic librarians at other institutions. The KSR’s Police Training Manual collection is currently being duplicated by Howard University’s Law Library which is just one of our partners at HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). These manuals include important policies such as Use of Force and/or Chokeholds.

To limit the universe of possible issues, we have decided to focus in this prototype development phase on (1) housing and neighborhood conditions and (2) policing and the criminal "legal" system in the San Francisco Bay Area, after which we may expand to other topics. The term criminal "justice" system is too often unjust so is referred to as the "legal" system instead. Stanford’s KSR will serve as a prototype for other academic libraries to adopt and adapt in their regions, thus enabling the KSR to increase its scale through a sustainable and egalitarian collaborative network that furthers social justice.

Select Stanford's scholars and community activists will form the first circle of KSR advisors, collaborators and test users. They will provide requirements--in terms of data, analytics and user interface. They will also be sources for information--contributing primary source material and data produced from their own activism and research. The scope and scale of systemic racism in the US is so great that no single site or institution could conceivably address its different manifestations at the local or even regional level. However, by scaling our project, we anticipate that KSR has the potential to become a national resource. Just as importantly, we believe that KSR will lead to powerful local partnerships and collaborations among librarians, community activists and academics and this has the promise of making a substantial impact on local and regional policies and reforms.

This project is desperately needed at this moment in history because we will not solely provide statistics documenting discriminatory practices and racial disparities in interconnected systems. Instead we will focus on humanizing the harm. In order to KNOW Systemic Racism exists, our users can critically evaluate the documented data and personal accounts of injuries caused as a direct result of discriminatory policies and practices throughout interconnected systems spanning all areas of the lives of people of African descent in the United States.

For our initial prototype, we have narrowed our scope to the interconnections of housing and policing, in the Bay Area, for the most part. We are creating two separate visual timelines of racist attacks; one is limited to California and the second one covers other states in America. We will highlight interconnections for policing and housing such as No-Knock Warrants, Broken Windows Policing and Civil Asset Forfeitures.

We can use the re-worded slogan of “KNOW Racist Police” to brand our Policing Timeline.

  • KNOW Justice 
  • KNOW Peace and
  • KNOW Racist Police are all crucial concepts to truly
  • KNOW Systemic Racism

One sample entry on our timeline is the murder of Stephon Clark. His entry (as pictured above) includes data points that document interconnected areas of his life. His KSR entry includes his story as highlighted in our Say Their Name- No More Names exhibit. His KSR entry also includes the raw graphic video footage including the video from the Ghetto Bird (helicopter) as part of over-policing in certain zip codes. It includes the 911 call that sent the police to that area and shockingly the call was literally about "broken windows." The data includes a historical redlining map showing residential segregation and includes the current demographics from the U.S. Census. It includes background information about the systematic disinvestment and inequality in Stephon's neighborhood. It includes information about the college drop-out rates among Black students, especially males. His KSR timeline entry includes the District Attorney's detailed report about Stephon's murder as well as the Attorney General's Report after the police officers were not charged for killing him. It includes alarming statistics about other police who claimed that they mistook the Black victim's cellphone for a gun, just like in Stephon's case. It includes calls from his family for an independent medical examiner after their private autopsy. It includes the Use of Force Training Manual, data on the number of officer-involved shootings and civilian complaints. It includes the FBI's investigation to see if Stephon's Civil Rights were violated. It includes the new law AB-392 named in honor of Stephon Clark dealing with deadly force. It includes the $2.4 million dollar settlement paid to Stephon's children by Sacramento's taxpayers for police misconduct.

In addition to the timelines, we will have catalogs and open-access, faceted search engines such as WorldCat and the Digital Public Library of America and recommend advanced Boolean search strategies to retrieve results for interconnections such as “housing AND polic* AND Bay Area.”

The KSR team has already begun collecting California Law Enforcement Agency documents including those elusive Police Union Contracts.  Working with our partners at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) we have collected over 460 Police Policy and Training Manuals from most police departments and sheriff offices and some district attorney offices, school district police departments, and university public safety departments. The policies are available on an easy-to-read chart at the bottom of this article.

This dataset represents our first attempt to aggregate these policy documents following the passage of S.B. 978, a state law that requires local law enforcement agencies to publish this information online. We used the California Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training’s list of California law enforcement agencies to prioritize municipal police, sheriff’s offices, university and school district police, and district attorneys in our data collection. Future research will cover other forms of local law enforcement. 

After this past tumultuous year, it will be interesting to track if any meaningful changes are made to police privileges, policies and procedures. Collecting these materials serve an important role in creating an informed populace. This is because when civilians know what is allowed by police policies, they are armed with the knowledge to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community by fighting back against abuse. People must know their rights in order to identify when their rights are being violated. This is my professional commitment to make the unknown - known. 

Sample topics in the KSR, locally in the Bay Area, include the following:

  • Racial wealth gap and historical causes including the G.I. Bill’s discrimination against Black veterans
  • Black farmers in California and their land loss.
  • Racially exclusionary housing in San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Racially restrictive covenants that were contractual agreements that prohibited the purchase, lease, or occupation of a piece of property to African Americans, in California and nationwide.
  • Redlining and interesting facts such as the progressive Bay Area enclave of Berkeley, California was the first city in the country to implement single-family zoning in 1916.
  • Segregation by the sea such as in Manhattan Beach, in California.
  • Racist highway placement and urban renewal schemes specifically in California.
  • Cash Bail disparities.
  • Civil Asset Forfeiture and For-Profit Policing
  • No-Knock Warrants.
  • Pre-trial detentions inequities.
  • Algorithmic bias in risk-assessment.
  • Pretext traffic stops and driving while Black.
  • Stop & Frisk racial disparity statistics.
  • Broken Windows Policing.
  • Juvenile prisons and school-to-prison pipeline or "schoolhouse to jailhouse" unjustness.
  • California’s Black Testimony Exclusion Law that stated, “persons having one-half or more of negro blood, shall not be witnesses in an action or proceeding, to which a white person is a party.” 
  • Senate Bill 592 expanding the jury pool to include more racial minorities as prospective jurors.
  • CAREN (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies) Act to stop racist 911 calls.
  • Stephon Clark Law or Assembly Bill 392 limiting police lethal force to only when necessary.

We would be remiss if the KSR omitted national milestones or historically relevant events, outside of California including:

  • Chicago, Illinois paid Reparations to more than 100 Black victims of police torture in 2015.
  • Evanston, Illinois is paying Reparations to victims of housing discrimination in 2021.
  • Breonna Taylor’s murder in Louisville, Kentucky in 2020 that connects police violence inside of Black people’s homes. 
  • KSR will include “Heirs’ Property,” which refers to the ongoing threat to land ownership by descendants of people who died without leaving a will. The problem began during Reconstruction, when many African Americans didn’t have access to the legal system, and it continued through the Jim Crow era, when Black people were understandably suspicious of white Southern courts. In the late 20th century, a new form of dispossession emerged that was officially sanctioned by the courts that targets heirs’ property owners who do not have clear titles to their ancestor’s land which was usually in valuable locations.
  • Racial terrorism and ethnic cleansing of Black families in America, such as in Forsyth County, Georgia in 1912 when over 1,000 Black residents were violently chased from their homes by vigilantes and their land and property was stolen by their attackers using “adverse possession.”
  • Obviously, KSR will cover Sundown Towns including 100 in California, and thousands of communities throughout the country that kept African Americans out of their white towns, after sunset, so no Black people could reside there. This was enforced by discriminatory laws, harassment, threats or use of violence. This might sound familiar to other race riots that resulted in property loss, similar to what happened during the Black Wall Street Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921.

The above topics are just a few examples of the extensive discrimination that will be documented in the KSR. This initiative will be simultaneously challenging and worthwhile and I look forward to documenting these atrocities to prove that systemic racism exists in interconnected areas of people’s lives, including the criminal legal system, policing, housing, politics and voting, banking, education, employment, environment, healthcare, media, literature, military, religion (historical use as colonialization weapon), science and technology. Sample topics for upcoming systems include: 


  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) 
  • Unbanked/ Underbanked people
  • Predatory Lenders (Payday Loans)
  • Sub-Prime Mortgages


  • School-to-Prison-Pipeline
  • School Resource offices/ School Resource Officers/ Metal detectors in schools
  • National Book Awards, Pulitzer Prize Committees
  • Gatekeepers in scholarly publishers
  • Textbooks, Critical Race Theory, (i.e., McGraw Hill described slaves as “unpaid workers”)
  • “Lunch-Shaming” / administrators against students with lunch debts
  • Student athletics compensation
  • Cecil Rhodes (Rhodes Scholars)
  • Reparations from colleges (i.e., Georgetown Reparations to African-American Students)
  • Unethical possession of human remains


  • Hiring and retention/ Prejudice against names of job applicants
  • Racist AI hiring algorithms 
  • “Ban the Box”
  • Sports (Coaching, Ownership)
  • Crown Act to prevent discrimination against Black employee’s natural hair
  • Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies
  • Slaves were auctioned on Wall Street in New York


  • Flint and Jackson Water Crises
  • Lead poisoning
  • Toxic waste dumping/landfills
  • Food deserts / food apartheid
  • Heat islands


  • COVID-19/ Prisoners: COVID 500 infected in San Quentin, Mississippi Deaths, 
  • Pain management
  • Racial Trauma (PTSD)
  • Black maternal deaths during childbirth
  • Tuskegee Experiment
  • Dr. Sims, female enslaved women’s gynecologist
  • Prisoners chained during childbirth 
  • Sterilization/Eugenics/Racial Hygiene


  • News coverage of missing Black kids and the media’s “Missing white woman syndrome”
  • Movie portrayals of Black People
  • Black homicide victims portrayal in News / of Black Victims as Dangerous (i.e., Nia Wilson)


  • Confederate base names
  • 1944 Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (the G.I. Bill)
  • Lack of diversity and inclusivity in military leadership
  • White supremacist identified after Capitol Insurrection 2021


  • Facial Recognition Racial bias in policing assigned Black Congressmen as Criminals
  • AI Racial Bias in recidivism Risk Assessments/ Hiring/ Soap dispensers/ Bank loans
  • Silicon Valley hiring and retention
  • Technological or Digital Redlining
  • Racialized surveillance
  • Cyber-Racism
  • Algorithms of oppression


  • Preclearance
  • Voter ID Laws, Closing polling places and Voter suppression in 2021
  • Voting Rights stripped, “Disenfranchisement” or Revocation of Suffrage
  • Felon’s Voting Rights 

The current and future topics will all be duplicated in other states so I will be working diligently with our campus partners as well as with our external partners at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to launch their KNOW Systemic Racism tools. Stanford Libraries' KSR is focusing on Anti-Black racism because it was created in response to the murder of George Floyd. We hope other racialized groups can use the KSR as a template in their fight against injustice.

Many amazing scholars, community organizers and activists across campus and in the Bay Area, have work tirelessly to help design the framework for the KSR so it will be one of the nation’s most innovative tools related to systematic racial discrimination. I look forward to continuing to work with all of my incredible colleagues at Stanford Libraries, and campus partners including but not limited to the amazing “do tank” called Stanford SPARQ, Stanford's Center for Human Rights and International Justice and especially Stanford’s Center for Racial Justice.

I cannot thank the people involved with the KSR enough for their valuable insight, time, energy and indefatigable effort. Our team has much work to do but we look forward to embarking on this new journey with the sincere hope that the KSR will make an impact in the human struggle for liberty, equality and justice. 

The final major component of the KSR is identifying government agencies, non-profit organizations, and grassroots groups that address racism. While we continue working on a functional prototype, we have begun a KNOW Systemic Racism LibGuide that will be a living document as we begin evaluating additional campus, local and national resources and governing agencies including forms to file housing or policing complaints.

Just like our Say Their Names - No More Names exhibit added an important vision statement “No More Names,” that same sentiment is applicable to our “KNOW Systemic Racism (KSR)” tool which includes identifying governing agencies that have the power to create reformed systems leading to a reimagined world in which "NOSystemic Racism Exists.

Our project does much more than simply “track” racism, so we solicited new names from the nearly 40 librarians who have contributed to the concept and design planning. Regina Roberts originally suggested we name change of “Know Justice, Know Peace, No Systemic Racism.” I then replaced “No” with “KNOW” because it works great as a branding tool with our KNOW Justice, KNOW Peace Banner that usually hangs outside of Green Library as part of our aforementioned Say Their Names – No More Names exhibit.

As the Racial Justice Social & Equity Librarian, I hope to assemble a Stanford Justice League of like-minded thought-warriors who are willing to join our efforts to build the KSR.

We are hoping the initial prototype will secure funding so we can help society KNOW about the harm caused by systemic racism and help usher in a world where all people Know Justice, Know Peace and where there is "NO" Systemic Racism. 

KNOW Systemic Racism (KSR) prototype concept (please note this is still a work in progress):


Know Justice Know Peace Banner at Green Library