“If those in positions of power and privilege are not shielded from misogynoir, then what protections do Black women who are not in positions of power and privilege actually have?” – Janice Gassam Asare, on misogynoir, or misogyny directed at Black women
Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be the first woman, first Black woman, and first South Asian person to serve as Vice President in the history of American politics. Her win last week brought to the forefront issues of race and gender representation, as well as the powerful organizing efforts of Black women. Ninety-one percent of Black women voted for Biden-Harris, and Black women led crucial grassroots organizing efforts in Georgia. As voter Ashley Bankhead shares, “Seeing people in political leadership roles who also look like me makes me care more, makes me want to show up and make sure I’m voting.”
Many people are articulating their gratitude to the Black women who voted and organized to elect Biden-Harris. But often, Black women are acknowledged for their efforts during election season and then sidelined again until the next election. Voter Ashley Hicks puts it this way: “I think about Breonna Taylor—when things like that happen and it comes time to get justice, we don’t get that. But when it’s time to put democracy on our backs, people are in awe and amazed of what we as Black women do.”
Author Minda Harts points out that seeing Harris onstage in Delaware sent a message to corporate leaders: When Black women are sponsored, they can change history. Let Vice President-Elect Harris’ win serve as inspiration and a call to action within your organization or institution. Hire Black women into leadership roles, and avoid these common pitfalls when you do so.
The myth of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 has been used to erase crimes that led to the mass starvation of Indigenous people. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic highlights contemporary struggles with food insecurity that Indigenous people face. Native American activist, Winona LaDuke, argues that as more people become aware of systemic oppression, the country may be ready to treat Thanksgiving as an opportunity to address “the cruelty Native Americans have experienced throughout history.”
Indigenous communities continue to receive limited access to resources they need to survive. The Thanksgiving myth of an amicable encounter between the Pilgrims and Wampanoags is not only largely inaccurate, it causes further harm to Indigenous people. By framing the displacement of Indigenous people as consensual, we erase the experiences and histories of Indigenous communities with non-consensual domination. We can dispel the myth by acknowledging the colonial violence that led to the death of Indigenous communities and continues to marginalize them today.
Faculty, teachers, and workplace leaders can use Thanksgiving as a time to acknowledge the harm the Thanksgiving myth and systemic oppression have caused Indigenous communities. Dispelling the Thanksgiving myth requires learning about the misconceptions and inaccuracies the myth perpetuates. It’s also important to acknowledge the long-lasting impact of colonial violence on Indigenous communities. We can do that by addressing issues, like food insecurity, that continue to affect Indigenous people.
Disability is often mentioned as part of diversity efforts, but that doesn’t always translate into meaningful feelings of inclusion for students with disabilities. Activists and scholars explain that disability is often viewed in terms of accommodations and accessibility—as a biomedical condition rather than a group identity. The intersectional nature of disability is also often overlooked. For example, a person with a disability at a racial, gender, or LGBTQ+ affinity group meeting may feel unseen or out of place if the intersection of disability with other identities is not explicitly recognized there.
It’s important to note the many forms disability can take. Some disabilities, like mobility impairments, are easy to see. Others, like hearing impairments or psychosocial conditions, are less visible. The CDC reports that if we include both visible and less visible disabilities, 26 percent of people in the US have a disability. Disability is a lot more common than some may think.
Whether you work on campus or in an office, you can dig deeper into disability inclusion by:
For Election Day, we are referring our readers to three excellent pieces; one each for schools, higher ed, and the workplace. School, campus, and workplace leaders are tasked with responding to growing fears and anxiety during this uncertain time. Regardless of the outcome of the election, the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are key to addressing these concerns with respect and understanding.
In 2016, many schools were unprepared to discuss the election results with students. Here are a few suggestions for how to prepare this time around:
The presidential election is likely to elicit some differing opinions and negative emotions. Here are some ways for faculty to support students during the election:
In the days leading up to and following the election, the workplace may become heated and difficult to navigate. In preparation, leaders can keep some best practices in mind:
Finally, connect your efforts to foster respect, empathy, and understanding during the election with your existing inclusion efforts. The tenets of an inclusive workplace set the stage for effective communication around difficult topics.
I am fascinated and dismayed by how much ableist and militaristic language is casually used by abled journalists and doctors; how casually we will use militaristic language for convalescence, when what is needed is gentle care. — Steven W. Thrasher, on our ableist culture
Scholars explain that the term Latinx was developed by Chicano and Latina feminists who “felt uncomfortable with the masculine term [Latino].” Today, proponents of Latinx say that it serves as a response to a history of discrimination against women, LGBTQ people, and Afro-Latinx people. It’s also an intervention tool; research shows using gender-inclusive language makes LGBTQ people feel safe, heard, and valued.
But a recent survey found that “only 23% of Hispanic adults have heard of the term Latinx.” The term is mostly used by a younger, more gender-conscious demographic. Older Hispanics and those outside of the United States tend to express discomfort or disagree with it.
As we teach in our courses, identity terminology is always changing. The takeaway is to be open and responsive to new and shifting terms, and consider how an individual self-identifies. Although proponents consider Latinx to be a more gender-inclusive term, as we see in this report, most people choose not to use it. When in doubt, ask how someone would like you to refer to them.
Terms like Hispanic and Latinx are often used for convenience as well as coalition building. Scholars say they can even help to signal “solidarity with historically oppressed groups.” But it’s important to appreciate just how diverse communities included in these terms are. As the report points out, most people identify by their country of origin. There’s no one perfect term that will make everyone feel heard and valued. But companies and campuses can continue to look for opportunities to be as inclusive as possible, and continue to listen.
It’s reported that due to COVID-19 pressures, hundreds of thousands of women dropped out of the US labor force just this past month. That’s almost eight times the number of men who dropped out in the same period. Unemployment for women as a whole is at 8% right now. And it’s higher for Black and Hispanic women.
Several factors are contributing to the trend. Industries that employ a lot of women are doing worse during the pandemic. Closed schools and a lack of childcare options are forcing women to choose between their careers and caregiving. And despite a cultural re-thinking of traditional gender roles in recent decades, moms are still three times as likely as dads to take on the majority of housework and caregiving.
Women leaving the workforce in droves is yet another example of how the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in our society. Even before the pandemic, the gender pay gap meant that women were more likely than men to give up their (lower-paying) jobs and stay at home. The situation is even more challenging for single mothers.
Here are a few ways to remain gender-inclusive as we navigate the COVID-19 job economy:
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered how Indigenous Peoples’ Day is celebrated in the United States. Dr. Elizabeth Ellis, an Indigenous scholar, argues that it is even more important to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day at this moment. The holiday has functioned to bring awareness to Indigenous issues since the 1980s. Ellis argues that, given the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous communities, now is the time for all Americans to “show up” for Indigenous people.
Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day and learning about Indigenous issues is a way for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike to speak out against racism and colonialism.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought attention to how systemic racism and oppression continue to impact Indigenous communities disproportionately. Showing up for Indigenous people means supporting efforts to combat the racism, police violence, and mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis that Indigenous communities face.
Here are some ways you can show your support for Indigenous people in the United States.
“They’ve lumped everything together: critical race theory, the 1619 project, whiteness studies, talking about white privilege…What they have in common is they are discourses that refuse to participate in the lie that America has triumphantly overcome its racist history, that everything is behind us. None of these projects accept that it’s all behind us.”
— Kimberlé Crenshaw, on President Trump’s Executive Order banning federal contractors from conducting racial sensitivity training
IBM is currently launching a nation-wide partnership with HBCUs while also under investigation for age discrimination.
The company has been accused of systematically laying off workers over 40 to make room for “early professional hires” between the years of 2013 and 2018. Although IBM claimed the workers’ skill sets were out of date for their current needs, laid-off workers were often hired back as contractors at lower wages and without benefits.
The new partnership with historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) aims to bring a diversity of minds to the burgeoning industry of quantum computing, at the ground level. The initiative includes research funding, access to quantum computers, student support, guest lectures, curriculum content, digital badges, and faculty training at HBCUs across the country.
IBM says that bringing in diverse perspectives allows them to “see where quantum computing applications could emerge.” We’re excited to see a deliberate effort to diversify a new industry just as it’s starting to expand. We also hope IBM has ceased their age-based lay-offs since 2018 so that people from all age groups and races have an opportunity to learn new skills and benefit from the growth of the tech industry.
Companies should track and analyze their hiring and firing data over time to identify possible patterns of discrimination and bias and address them accordingly. Companies should also consider how they can build diverse teams, departments, and initiatives from the ground up, as IBM aims to do with its HBCU partnership. Not only will the partnership set a foundation for further diversity and inclusion, but the field of quantum computing will progress with a true diversity of ideas.
Some may not know that two of the three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, identify as queer. There is a tendency to focus on Black men subjected to police violence, but not Black women or Black trans people subjected to that same violence. For trans activists, it’s a familiar pattern. Trans women of color helped establish the LGBTQ rights movement, but that has largely led to advances for white gay men and women and not Black and trans people. One trans activist writes, “… the Black queer community has been in the forefront leading, however, we’re not being seen or heard or valued.”
We say “Black Lives Matter” because Black people are targeted by systemic racism and violence. But we often fail to account for the many Black trans lives traumatized and lost to that same violence. That’s why we need to assert that “Black Trans Lives Matter.” And when we say the names of those killed by police, trans activists urge us to consider, “Are you including Black trans women in that list of Black names?”
If you have initiatives in your workplace or on campus that focus on racial equity, consider whether Black trans people are included in them and have access to leadership roles. The same goes for LGBTQ+ initiatives. If Black communities organize an event, include Black queer people. If queer communities organize an event, include Black queer people. Make acknowledging intersectionality a core value in your community so that Black trans people are heard and valued.
The work of Abigail Echo-Hawk, director of the Urban Indian Health Institute, highlights the limited data on the impact of COVID-19 on Indigenous people in the United States. Lack of access to data and inconsistent findings have made it difficult to determine the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Indigenous communities.
The erasure of American Indians and Alaska Natives in public health data dates as far back as 1790, when the U.S. Census was created. American Indians were not included in the U.S. Census until 1860. This erasure was used to justify the genocide of American Indians living on “supposedly empty land.”
Limited reporting on the rates of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities could impact the resources these communities receive during the pandemic. Abigail Echo-Hawk and other scholars have demonstrated how data reporting and access to data during COVID-19 is tied to colonialism and other systems of oppression in the United States. When researchers fail to report on Indigenous communities, they may “further marginalize and harm” these communities.
Faculty and administrators should be aware of how their data collection and reporting practices may impact communities of color, including Indigenous communities:
“This moment is a conjuncture between the COVID-19 crisis and the increasing awareness of the structural nature of racism. Moments like this do arise. They’re totally unpredictable, and we cannot base our organizing on the idea that we can usher in such a moment. What we can do is take advantage of the moment.” — Angela Davis, on our current moment
Last week, the White House issued a memo ordering federal agencies to discontinue any training that suggests “(1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil.” Trainings related to white privilege and critical race theory were characterized as “divisive, anti-American propaganda.” Upon hearing the news, law professor and critical race theory scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw said, “This is McCarthyism 101.”
The White House memo perpetuates many misconceptions that people who are unfamiliar with diversity initiatives may have. Research-based diversity programming does not tell white people that they are inherently racist or evil. It teaches that when we begin to understand how racism operates, including how it benefits white people, we can then work to combat it and build a more inclusive community, together.
Scholars have identified the most common strategies employed by people arguing against progressive race policies. These include, among others, denial of a prejudiced stance, downplaying race as a source of inequality, and using liberal arguments for illiberal ends.
For instance, the memo claims that diversity programming teaches that it’s racist to believe the most qualified person should get the job. What diversity programming actually teaches is that, because of race bias, the most qualified person may not get the job. By implicitly denying the reality of racially biased hiring decisions, the memo misrepresents this common learning point as illogical and overzealous. When you encounter arguments against diversity programming, look out for these common strategies.
Disabled people are the biggest minority in the world, making disability a mainstream political issue. Yet disabled people are severely underrepresented in many industries, including publishing. Frances Ryan describes the challenges of being a disabled writer in an industry that regularly sidelines people like her: “…like many minorities, we are often expected to only write about our identity, then dismissed as niche if we do.” She points out that including disabled writers is good business because “their inclusion will create richer storytelling.”
As more disabled writers and publishing professionals enter the industry, the less likely it is such writers will experience the challenges laid out by Frances Ryan. For instance, she reports that a publishing executive asked if they could film her moving about her home in her wheelchair. Ryan doubts they would have asked an able-bodied writer to do the same. She writes, “The more frequently disabled writers are given a platform, the less likely it is their disability will be fetishised.”
Frances Ryan’s advice for improving disability representation in publishing can be applied across industries:
The Georgetown neighborhood in Washington, D.C. is now a predominantly white tourist attraction. However, Georgetown was once the home of thousands of freed and enslaved Black people. A three-acre plot shared by the Mount Zion and Female Union Band Society cemeteries contains their damaged headstones.
Garrett Lowe, a Washingtonian tutor, came up with the idea of enlisting the help of local youth to uncover the stories of the people buried in the Georgetown plot. Local high school students, and other residents, signed up for the class offered by Lowe. After researching the names on the headstones, students presented their findings at a libation ceremony.
One of the effects of systemic racism is that Black stories are often erased from the dominant narrative. When Black history is left out of the classroom, students are taught “a skewed understanding of history.” By investigating the Black history of Georgetown, students gained a greater understanding of marginalized stories, and corrected misconceptions about slavery and the Georgetown neighborhood.
Teachers and faculty can develop creative ways to bring Black voices into the classroom. Highlighting diverse voices and histories will:
“I chose writing because people had to see and absorb my words before judging my body. I wanted to see myself represented and be seen as myself. But I was quietly and consistently asked to carve myself into pieces so that my wholeness would not be a distraction from my talent. And, let me be clear, I am talented.” — Imani, on growing up Black and disabled
The Trevor Project surveyed 40,000 LGBTQ youth for its 2020 mental health report. Forty-six percent of respondents said they were unable to access resources like counseling and therapy. They cited cost and concerns about parental permission as their main barriers. What makes this statistic even more concerning is that 40% of all respondents and 50% of transgender and nonbinary respondents “seriously considered attempting suicide” in the past year.
The survey also shows that affirming adults play a crucial role in LGBTQ youth mental health. The Trevor Project concludes that the two most powerful tools in supporting LGBTQ youth may seem obvious and yet are in short supply: acceptance and validation. One way to validate LGBTQ youth is to use accurate terminology when speaking and referring to them.
Leaders from The Trevor Project emphasize the need for an intersectional—rather than a one-size-fits-all—approach to suicide prevention. That means investing in research and data collection that helps ensure mental health resources meet the unique needs of all your employees or students. To start: Strive to make your mental health resources accessible both in terms of cost and anonymity.
Writer Michael Harriot argues that the case for reparations should account not only for the “sweat equity” of slavery but for discriminatory policies that took wealth from Black people and reserved it for white people. One example he cites is the case of Briggs v. Elliott. Black families in 1940s South Carolina paid the same taxes as white families but did not have access to the same county services. Black students were left to trek through sometimes dangerous rural terrain to get to school while white students had access to taxpayer-funded school buses. When Black parents asked for a single school bus, the county superintendent said no. Harriot calls this case a “microcosm” of what was happening across the United States.
Harriot goes on to break down the similar effects redlining has on Black communities. Because the government and then banks marked all majority-Black neighborhoods as “risky” starting in the 1930s, home values in those areas fell and remained low. Harriot writes, “Nearly every calculable effect of institutional inequality can be traced back to this 85-year-old government policy.” For one, it continues to systematically drain school funding from Black neighborhoods.
As the movement for Black lives has shown us in recent months, understanding the present-day impact of systemic racism is critical to fostering a diverse, inclusive, and equitable school or workplace community. Without this context, decision-makers are bound to engage in policies and practices that maintain systemic inequities.
Disabled activists, who may be unable to participate in physical protests, have utilized social media to support various causes. Online activism has allowed disabled people to communicate how often their needs are ignored in the workplace. Disabled online activists have also used social media to increase the visibility of disabled people in media and politics by using hashtags, such as #CripTheVote.
Recently, disabled activists have brought attention to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the lives of disabled people. Prior to COVID-19, many disabled people were denied the ability to work remotely by their schools and workplaces. Due to the pandemic, these same institutions have now shifted to remote work.
The needs of disabled people are often ignored in the workplace, in schools, and on campus. The internet is an invaluable resource for disabled people to participate in advocacy efforts and make their voices heard. Remote work and learning options ensure accessibility for many disabled people. COVID-19 has revealed how institutions can increase accessibility by providing more remote work options for students and employees.
College campuses, workplaces, and disability allies should listen to the needs of disabled people and provide accommodations as needed. Institutions may resist providing accommodations, such as remote work. However, COVID-19 has demonstrated how it is possible and necessary for institutions to be flexible to the needs of all students and employees.
“An anti-racist teacher recognizes that racism exists in our school system. Second, an anti-racist teacher agrees that to do nothing about the racism in our school system is to be complicit.” — Joana Chacon, on how dismantling racism starts in schools
As the new academic year approaches, colleges and universities are grappling with the budgetary impact of COVID-19. But something that may be overlooked in these decisions is how they relate to the “profound reexamination of racism in higher education, accelerated by the Black Lives Matter movement.”
For instance, as school administrators consider where to cut back, they may want to reflect on how one particular budgetary policy has led to a slow-down in faculty diversity for the past 25 years: the uncapping of mandatory retirement as anti-age discrimination reform. Because older faculty are most likely to be white and male, research shows the 1994 uncapping limited the number of entry-level faculty positions that could have been held by a more diverse cohort.
This is an interesting case study in diversity policy because “these findings paint a picture of antidiscrimination law at war with itself.” The uncapping policy expanded generational diversity but hindered diversity in terms of gender and race. It speaks to the importance of taking an intersectional approach to diversity policy.
On a practical level, school administrators can look for ways to make retirement more appealing to faculty. Schools can continue to offer health care, access to campus spaces and resources, and establish mentoring programs that pair junior and retired faculty. Hard decisions will inevitably have to be made during COVID-19, but administrators should remember “the salutary impacts of diverse faculty on an increasingly diverse student body” and how budgetary measures can have unexpected consequences for campus diversity.
Knowing that the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee would likely be a woman of color, a coalition of women’s rights advocates wrote a public letter to the news media community urging them to grant the candidate unbiased coverage in the coming weeks.
In the letter, they point out that the media has a history of applying double standards to women—and especially women of color—in the public eye. The authors of the letter argue that such reporting actively contributes to the lack of diversity in top positions in society.
Biased coverage can look like:
The authors of the letter connect the current moment of critical reflection on race in the United States to the need for critical reflection on the intersection of race and gender. They write: “Anything less than full engagement in this thoughtful oversight would be a huge step backwards for the progress you have pledged to make.” Likewise, corporate and academic leaders should consider how gender informs their anti-racism efforts.
Scholars have found that many of the women who led the women’s suffrage movement of the 1900s had romantic relationships with other women. Queer women were often at the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement. Despite this, same-sex relationships in the suffrage movement were downplayed and overlooked.
Dominant depictions of suffragists have led to the erasure of the queer women and women of color who powered the women’s suffrage movement. However, scholars have brought greater attention to the important roles of Black, brown, and queer women in the women’s suffrage movement.
Narratives that focus on heteronormative depictions further marginalize people in the LGBTQ community. While LGBTQ terminology may be new to many, LGBTQ people have always existed. Scholars are disrupting the dominant narrative by highlighting the stories of “suffragists who challenged gender and sexual norms in their everyday lives.”
Educators and LGBTQ allies should examine how they may be silencing LGBTQ voices and erasing LGBTQ history. When discussing important historical figures, and scholars, make sure to include LGBTQ in these stories. Amplify and highlight both historical and contemporary LGBTQ voices. Disrupt the dominant narrative by affirming the existence of LGBTQ leaders at the forefront of social movements.
All of these remembrances were designed to be partial—to remember the side of history that the U.S. wants to acknowledge. They are a physical embodiment of America’s desire for selective memory and serve as…a cover for colonialism. – Nick Martin on statues of historical figures with legacies of genocide, land theft, and forced assimilation of Native people.
Sundown towns are towns that remain all white due to a combination of discriminatory local laws and violence. Tactics originally ranged from real estate agents setting up exclusionary covenants that dictated who could buy or rent in certain areas to outright harassment, intimidation, and threats. Sundown towns get their name from the practice of posting signs that said things like “no blacks after sundown.” While the signs are no longer up, some of the tactics used to keep Black people out are still active in towns across the country.
Learning and talking about sundown towns reconfigures the narratives many towns maintain about their pasts. An all-white town is not always simply a matter of demographics, it may be a carefully constructed outcome rooted in a “desire to keep outsiders—people of color—out.” Learning more about these towns reveals often highly racialized environments that white people tend to accept as normal or unproblematic.
There are many ways individuals can address the ongoing legacy of sundown towns and any artificially all-white environment.
You can now access data on racial disparities in almost all K-12 schools across the country. Activists and data scientists are encouraging parents to look up their child’s school and assess whether the data indicates patterns of racism. Data by race on suspensions, expulsions, arrests, student police referrals, and access to quality teachers and advanced courses can reveal racial bias and discrimination in a school administration.
The newly released data is an important tool for educators, parents, and students who want to end disproportionate discipline for students of color. The hope is to erode the “policies and practices upholding the school to prison pipeline” by calling them out and demanding change.
When faced with evidence of racially biased discipline, school and district officials often fall back on a common myth about students of color: that they act out more than white students do. Be prepared to respond to this myth with well-researched facts. Black and white students show similar rates for being sent to the principal’s office and committing serious offenses. “And when Black students misbehave, they are punished more severely than White students who commit the same offenses.”
After presenting their findings to their administration and colleagues and asking for an actionable response, educators can do the following: 1) reach out to other schools currently addressing disproportionate discipline, and 2) connect with initiatives like the Dignity in Schools Campaign.
In a letter to Nature Ecology and Evolution, researchers from around the world suggest that the COVID-19 crisis has disproportionately affected scientists from underrepresented groups.
Students and researchers of color are facing increased financial strain, as the COVID-19 crisis has led to cuts in academic jobs and funding. An analysis of scientific paper submissions revealed that COVID-19 has led to fewer submissions from female first authors. Additionally, international scholars have been forced to return to their countries of origin to care for their families.
Researchers are calling for increased efforts to ensure that scientists from underrepresented groups remain in science.
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated pre-existing inequities in the sciences. Increasing awareness of the unique challenges underrepresented scholars face during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond is necessary for building inclusion. By implementing strategies for assessing and fostering inclusion in the scientific workplace, institutions can mitigate some of the effects of COVID-19 on diversity in the sciences.
Faculty and hiring committees can build inclusion in the scientific workplace by:
What are you teaching your children about my child? Are you countering the messages, the negative messages and stereotypes about…Black boys, Black girls, our children from other backgrounds[?] – Dr. Maryam Jernigan-Noesi, on how to support and inform children in the face of police violence and racism
In her new report, Dr. Patrice W. Glenn Jones shares what Black students at predominantly Black institutions think about activism. Four major themes that come up are that they
An important reason Black students turn to HBCUs is for that sense of belonging and collective action. Research shows Black students at HBCUs are more civically engaged than those at predominantly white institutions.
Dr. Andrés Castro Samayoa reflects on his research on the subject: “I think that all institutions [need to] play an important role in developing a civic consciousness that has an awareness of racial injustice. But historically Black colleges do that in a way that is already embedded into its fabric by necessity.”
As schools across the country look for ways to build antiracist culture, they can study HBCUs and how they foster that sense of belonging and collective action.
The first steps will likely be
Dr. Jones believes it’s important for schools to give students lots of opportunities to share their opinions. For instance, she suggests schools hold discussion-based community events on civic engagement and activism. Otherwise, she says, “we’re placing a muzzle over their ideas and their ability to be creative and innovative,” adding, “it’s the educator’s job to make sure this isn’t a passing moment of empowerment.”
ProPublica reports on gaps in state services. In an attempt to create better channels of communication with people with disabilities, they launched a new initiative that aims to talk with people with disabilities, rather than merely about them.
The stories shared were mostly about how COVID-19 affects participants’ lives. But ProPublica says the stories “inform our coverage and give us a way to open a conversation. And at their core, the feelings…described are directly linked to their access to services and community.”
We’re encouraged to see that ProPublica made a deliberate effort to hear from people with disabilities. They also built an infrastructure for ongoing communication rather than relying on a one-off campaign. Doing so forwards voices too often ignored. It gives personal, authentic, and stereotype-defying stories a prominent platform.
How will you ensure you are consistently hearing from students or employees with disabilities about their needs and concerns? Take a look at how ProPublica went about it, and consider how you might adopt such practices in your organization or institution. Remember: Creating open and welcoming channels of communication with marginalized groups is crucial to inclusivity.
Garth Graham oversees COVID-19 testing sites in low-income Black and brown neighborhoods. He reports a 35% infection rate for children in the underserved neighborhoods where he conducts testing. But for children in whiter, richer neighborhoods of the same city, the infection rate is only 8.8%. Graham’s data confirms that, as he put it, “the pandemic is unfolding very differently in Black and brown communities.”
His efforts to study why COVID-19 hits poorer communities of color so hard highlight the systemic nature of the racial disparity. A dearth of testing sites and barriers to accessing testing have turned vulnerable neighborhoods where help is needed most into areas where help is least available.
Epidemiologist Sarita Shah says these conditions create “a huge hole” in her research on who gets COVID-19, why they get it, and how to stop it. The result: medical and social services to save Black and brown lives is starkly inferior to what richer, whiter communities get.
In our view, a public health system that perpetuates racial disparities fails its essential purpose. We agree with Richard Besser of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that “The lack of data speaks a lot to whose lives we value and whose lives we don’t.”
Organizations and individuals can join the movement to end systemic racism, including systemic disparities in healthcare access.
Lawyers, healthcare companies, and social service organizations can work with organizations to boost accessibility to testing. Advertising and media companies can spearhead projects to improve public health messaging in hard-hit communities. Research institutions can fund studies of COVID-19 and the effects of earlier diagnosis and more supportive care. Schools can launch antiracism projects.
Finally, we can all write and call our local government offices to express support for equitable access to healthcare.
We are being disproportionately killed by systemic and overt racism at the same time…Crisis after crisis, crisis on top of crisis, we have marched, kneeled, lobbied, voted and built our own spaces to find ways to navigate it all.
— The Blavity News Team and founders, on being “forced to fight a pandemic amid a pandemic.”
When students return to classes this fall, many professors may want to discuss systemic racism and racial injustice in their classes. For those whose courses don’t typically cover such topics, though, experts have some words of advice:
We appreciate this article’s focus on integrating anti-racism into your teaching, rather than singling it out as a special topic. By normalizing discussions of racial injustice and inequality in the classroom, students and academics will no doubt be better prepared to do so in their future workplaces and communities.
If you are an educator looking to integrate anti-racism into your courses, start with your syllabi. How many readings, videos, studies, and other supplemental materials are written by people of color? How can you integrate race and racism into classroom discussions, assignments, and presentations? You can take it a step further by asking someone else to review your syllabi with you, so as to reduce any potential for blind spots.
A new documentary, “Terror in Tulsa: The Rise and Fall of Black Wall Street,” is set to be released in 2021 by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson. The documentary will cover how Black entrepreneurs built thriving business districts after slavery was formally abolished, like the Greenwood district of Tulsa. The film will then show how in 1921, violent white mobs literally burned Greenwood to the ground, with no fear of repercussions.
Nelson points out that physical force is only one tactic used to destroy Black livelihoods. He explains, “Banks would charge Black people more, or wouldn’t loan Black businesses money, or charged them more interest than they would charge white people.” He says he wants people to know that “it’s not because African Americans…didn’t work hard for that economic independence, and are not still working hard for that economic independence, but [that] the businesses were destroyed.”
Events like the Tulsa Massacre are often overlooked completely or reduced to mere facts and figures in history textbooks and classrooms. Discussing events like the Tulsa Massacre may seem unrelated to workplace goals, especially in corporate settings. But having knowledge of the historical context of race in the U.S. is critical to diversity and inclusion in any organization or institution.
Create opportunities for your students or employees to engage in discussions of race that are grounded in historical context. Then, challenge them to find the connections between those historical events and the challenges they see today. To start, you can learn more about the Tulsa Massacre here.
As U.S. institutions continue to rename buildings originally named after racist historical figures, Princeton University will remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from their School of Public and International Affairs. Law professor Aderson Bellegarde François commends the effort, but asserts that institutions must be sure to do more than renaming. He says this is an opportunity to “learn about the Black Americans who suffered at Wilson’s malicious hand—to raise their names as we tear down his.”
François tells the story of Robert Smalls, a Black South Carolina state representative, state senator, and U.S. Representative during the Reconstruction years. Smalls, who was once enslaved by his own white father, was a critical player in overturning Black Codes and ratifying the Fourteenth Amendment.
Woodrow Wilson didn’t hide the fact that he was a white supremacist. Among other disturbing actions, he reinstated Jim Crow laws in Washington, D.C., and eliminated all positions at the federal level in which Black people supervised white people. Robert Smalls, by then 75 years old and working as a federal customs inspector, was one of the Black officials fired.
We like the call to use Princeton’s renaming as an opportunity to celebrate Smalls’ achievements, and to learn more about the historical context behind today’s events. For example, learning about the political legacies of Smalls and Wilson calls to our attention that South Carolina’s Jim Crow Constitution essentially remains in effect today, save for some amendments.
If you’re planning to rename buildings on your campus or take related steps in your organization, consider how you can use it as a learning opportunity. Then, pair it with other actions that result in concrete improvements for Black people. These actions could include a commitment to hire more Black executives or donations to and partnerships with advocacy groups.