Rashawn Ray

Vice President and Executive Director of the AIR Equity Initiative

Rashawn Ray is an AIR vice president and the executive director of the AIR Equity Initiative. Launched in 2021, the AIR Equity Initiative is a five-year, $100M+ investment in behavioral and social science research and technical assistance to address the underlying causes of systemic inequities and to increase opportunities for people and communities. The initiative’s work is done collaboratively with other organizations and communities, and focuses on developing approaches to moderate or mitigate the harmful effects on individuals living in communities segregated by race and place, with a particular emphasis on education, workforce, creating safer communities, and advancing health equity.

As Professor at the University of Maryland and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution, Ray’s research addresses the mechanisms that manufacture and maintain racial and social inequity. His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, Arnold Foundation, and Ford Foundation. His academic articles have appeared in the American Journal of Sociology, Science Advances, Social Science Research, American Education Research Journal, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Du Bois Review, and the Annual Review of Public Health. Ray’s books include Systemic Racism in America: Sociological Theory, Education Inequality, and Social Change (with Hoda Mahmoudi), How Families Matter: Simply Complicated Intersections of Race, Gender, and Work (with Pamela Braboy Jackson) and Race and Ethnic Relations in the 21st Century: History, Theory, Institutions, and Policy, which has been adopted over 40 times in college courses.

Ray has published over 50 books, articles, and book chapters, and over 50 op-eds. He has written for the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, POLITICO, Business Insider, Newsweek, NBC News, The Guardian, The Hill, Huffington Post, and The Conversation. Ray has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, BBC, CBS, ABC, C-Span, PBS, NPR, and Al Jazeera. As the Executive Director of the Lab for Applied Social Science Research (LASSR), Ray helped develop a virtual reality training program for law enforcement and led implicit bias trainings with thousands of police officers, military personnel, and employees at companies and organizations. He regularly testifies at the federal and state levels on racial equity, policing and criminal justice reform, health policy, wealth disparities, and family policy.

Ray obtained his Ph.D. and master’s degree in sociology from Indiana University, and his bachelor’s in sociology from the University of Memphis. Ray serves on boards with Meta and the Greater Washington Community Foundation. He also serves on the Legacy Renovation Scholars Committee with the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and as a consultant for the 400 Years of African American History Commission, which operates as an entity of the Executive Branch of the federal government. Formerly, Ray was a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health Policy Research Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and member of the National Advisory Committee for the RWJF Health Policy Research Scholars Program. Previously, Ray served on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington Planning Committee and the Commission on Racial Justice with Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. From 2018-2022, Ray served as one of the co-editors of Contexts Magazine: Sociology for the Public where the magazine garnered over one million website views and downloads each year.

Ray has been awarded the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science, the Public Understanding of Sociology Award from the American Sociological Association, the Morris Rosenberg Award for Outstanding Sociological Achievement from the DC Sociological Society, and the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from Indiana University. He was recently awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship.

Rashawn Ray

Ph.D. and M.A., Indiana University; B.A. University of Memphis