“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.
We recognize that there are countless lists of resources being shared right now about police brutality and systemic racism. As educators, we’re offering you a resource round-up that is not necessarily meant to be comprehensive, but is instead intended to anchor and guide you as you navigate activism, allyship, and building awareness. Above all, we aim to center Black voices, actions, and thought leadership in the following resources.
1. Watch this interview with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, then read his book How To Be An Antiracist.
2. Educate yourself using the Anti-Racist Resource Guide.
3. Learn about the history of prisons, policing, and anti-Black punishment.
4. Learn about community alternatives to the police.
5. Fill out this reflection guide to better understand your role during this movement.
1. Check out the Teaching Tolerance guide to speaking up among family members.
2. Share these videos on systemic racism and this one specifically on redlining with friends and relatives.
3. Follow these Black thought leaders on social media.
4. Guard against misinformation when posting about Black Lives Matter.
5. Protect your and others’ privacy and avoid burnout when using social media for activism.
6. Download and share our BLM in the Workplace graphic.
1. Watch this short video on 5 tips for being an ally.
2. Check out Defund12.org, a crowdsourced tool where you can copy-paste emails to your local government officials and council members to “reallocate egregious police budgets towards education, social services, and dismantling racial inequality.”
3. Donate to mutual aid resources.
4. Donate to verified, Black-led bail funds.
5. Organize a rally.
1. Manage burnout and avoid vicarious trauma using this toolkit.
2. Support some of these 125 Black-owned businesses, ranging from beauty to bookstores to restaurants to fitness, etc.
3. Become a street medic and/or attend a National Lawyers Guild training to become a legal observer.
4. Play this free video on repeat to financially support BLM.
Amidst the murders of Black people at the hands of the police, censorship of and violent attacks against peaceful protesters, and extreme racial disparities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we at DiversityEdu stand with you in rage, grief, and above all, solidarity.
As the white supremacy embedded within the structures and institutions of our country reveals itself once again, we recognize that our mission at DiversityEdu must focus more intensely on helping our client institutions and companies learn the skills needed to fight for racial equity.
In an effort to support organizers and protesters, denounce police brutality, and uplift the voices and demands of the Black community, we encourage you to join us by taking part in the activities set out by The Movement for Black Lives.
1. Donate to bail funds
2. Educate yourself
3. Engage beyond the streets
4. Download and share this graphic
“For every life that we couldn’t save, we are called to honor that life. And the only way we honor that life is to continue fighting even when it seems like everything is lost.” —Carmen Yulín Cruz, mayor of San Juan, PR, on what we can learn about ourselves and each other right now. >> TWEET THIS
As June approaches, many LGBTQ+ people are mourning the loss of now-cancelled Pride parades. Dr. Samantha Allen, author of Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States, echoes this disappointment but suggests an alternative: “…pause, ask ourselves what Pride means and reimagine what it could be in the future.” Given the increasing tension around the presence of corporations at Pride, Allen points out that “the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled in-person Pride events…at a time when I think we could afford to start looking at Pride differently anyway.”
Instead of being passively present at an in-person event, people can “expressly seek out and lift up the LGBTQ causes, performers and businesses that matter to [them].” Using her experience of commissioning an LGBTQ+ artist as an example, Allen suggests a few social distancing-friendly ways of celebrating Pride. Her suggestions include ordering takeout from LGBTQ+ bars and restaurants, supporting online drag shows, and buying LGBTQ+ books from indie bookstores.
We think Allen’s reframing of Pride Month is both lovely and impactful. In a time when people are baking bread, writing letters, and holding virtual proms and Seders, it only makes sense to extend this spirit of connectedness to Pride. As Allen writes, “I hope semi-isolation reminds us that Pride Month is about the resilience, creativity and beauty of the LGBTQ community — and that the temporary absence of large, corporate-sponsored and often-inaccessible mass gatherings cannot suppress that underlying strength.”
According to Allen, “It feels good…to handpick a few things that bring you queer joy and then double down on them.” Consider her many suggestions for celebrating Pride in the absence of in-person gatherings this year. Which actions might bring you and the people you love queer joy?
Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw is known for coining the term “intersectionality.” She is also the Executive Director of the African American Policy Forum. As primarily white people protest lockdowns while COVID-19 is disproportionately lethal for African Americans, she writes that we must acknowledge a few important points.
1) Despite what recent patterns of victim-shaming imply, the disproportionate impact on African Americans is a result of racism and healthcare disparities.
2) Reopening the economy pushes “more Black health and service workers directly in the path of the pandemic.”
3) Sacrificing the lives of a historically racialized group falls “squarely within the territory of genocide.”
Professor Crenshaw points out that African Americans are largely shamed for the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on their communities. She cites a white shopper who commented, “When you start seeing where the cases are coming from and the demographics—I’m not worried.” You may have heard similar comments from people in your life—generalizations about who is and isn’t wearing a mask, misunderstandings about those who don’t have a choice but to work, etc.
When we don’t learn about racism’s legacy, we can’t see the links between that legacy and present-day health outcomes. We end up shaming—and blaming—the victims of that legacy, barring from us from taking effective, informed action.
As your institution or organization navigates re-opening or loosening restrictions during the pandemic, consider how your policies impact different identity groups. Keep Professor Crenshaw’s words in mind: “This involuntary sacrifice of a predictably vulnerable population…has to be squarely confronted for what it is: One more chapter in the annals of American racial power, in which the bodies of some are sacrificed en masse for the privilege and convenience of others.”
Early childhood educator Erika Christakis describes how the pandemic has revealed pre-existing inequities in education. However, the pandemic also offers educators and policymakers a chance to “consider anew which practices genuinely help students learn and which do not.” Some students are doing better during quarantine than they were in school.
They’re experiencing less stress and anxiety caused by “inadequate sleep, over-programmed schedules with little downtime, and the pressures of standardized tests.” At the same time, each group faces their own unique losses during quarantine. For example, younger students need in-person interaction to learn, and students with disabilities need access to specialized in-person services.
We like that Christakis frames the COVID-19 crisis as an opportunity to reflect on whether schools are serving all students equitably. Her points can also be applied to work and university settings. Who is struggling the most during quarantine, and who’s actually doing better than they were before? As states start to re-open, we can use what we’ve learned to shape our “new normal” for the better.
Christakis suggests that when schools reopen, they give priority to younger students and students with disabilities. Schools should also be prepared to offer parents flexible scheduling. In general, school administrators should keep in mind that “the pre-Coronavirus status quo didn’t serve every student well,” and now is the time to change that.
We’re seeing social distancing being used as a pretext to arrest the very communities that have been hit hardest by the virus.
Kristen Clarke, on Black people being disproportionally arrested for social distancing violations.
>> TWEET THIS
As the spring semester closes amidst a global pandemic, professors face the challenge of administering final exams remotely. According to instructional specialists Pamela Chui Kadakia and Allan A. Bradshaw, the challenge lies in “creat[ing], administer[ing], and scor[ing] final exams that are fair and equitable,” since students may face limited Internet access, caregiving responsibilities, and other distractions while at home.
Kadakia and Bradshaw offer extensive strategies to tackle finals-related concerns like time limits and deadlines, tech accessibility, and rubrics. They point out that doing so with equity in mind provides “a space for flexibility, understanding and, ultimately, student achievement.”
The shift to at-home learning and working has forced many of us to notice the hidden inequities in our school and work environments. In the COVID-free future, we hope that professors and employers continue to consider equity and accessibility when developing assignments. DiversityEdu offers a free downloadable checklist for doing so here.
One way to begin considering equity during COVID-19 is to ask yourself what elements of your school or work environment you took for granted before the crisis. Some examples could be access to the Internet, the ability to work quietly and without interruptions, or even being able to seek support from colleagues or classmates.
How have those things changed or stayed the same during COVID-19? How might those things have changed for students and colleagues in situations different from yours? And lastly, how can policies and procedures shift to accommodate those changes with equity in mind?
A new study finds that when Black first-year college students engage in a one-time belonging intervention, positive outcomes can be observed years later. The intervention consisted of students of diverse backgrounds sharing stories of the challenges they faced when transitioning to college. It was meant to convey that such challenges are common and often lessen as time goes on, especially when students seek out support.
Seven to ten years later, Black students in the experimental group had developed mentoring relationships and reported greater life satisfaction, more community involvement and leadership experience, and greater success in their careers.
At first glance, these findings may seem to imply that all we need to build a lasting sense of belongingness is a single instance of engagement. But after a closer read, we learn that the one-time intervention was successful because it set a foundation for ongoing engagement and inclusion in the form of mentoring relationships, which in turn contributed to career and life satisfaction as the years went on.
The study demonstrates how life-changing it can be to foster a sense of belonging early in life, as well as through mentoring relationships. Take a look at how mentoring is developed and supported on your campus or in your workplace. Is mentoring available to mentees of all or most backgrounds? Are there any barriers that keep mentees from finding mentors? Do potential mentors have the time to build robust mentoring relationships? Many of the items in our equity considerations checklist for remote learning are useful for reviewing mentoring programs as well.
Sung Yeon Choimorrow identifies as an Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) woman. She says that when she speaks out, people often say things like, “It’s so refreshing to see an AAPI woman who speaks her mind!” Choimorrow explains that these “compliments” only serve to reinforce stereotypes about the demeanor of AAPI women.
She says she speaks out to challenge both what’s being said, and the assumption that she won’t have the nerve to do so. For instance, when an airport agent saw her name and said, “I’m not even going to try and pronounce that!” Choimorrow pronounced her name for her and made her say it three times. She cites actress Uzo Aduba’s mother as inspiration, who said that “if white people can learn to pronounce Dostoyevsky, they can learn to pronounce Uzoamaka.” As Choimorrow writes, Asian and Pacific Islander women are “worth the extra effort.”
Choimorrow’s words speak to the intersectional nature of identity and how myths about women and Asian people overlap and compound. For example, Asian women are subjected to myths about subservience on account of their gender and race. That’s what makes it particularly powerful when she points out that Asian and Pacific Islander women “are stepping up to take back this power and stand in the spotlight.”
If you want to compliment someone in a way that relates to their identity group membership, take a moment to reflect on whether any stereotypes could be hidden within the compliment. When you encounter a name you’re not confident pronouncing, either ask how it’s pronounced or look it up. And if someone directs these types of microaggressions at you, consider responding like Choimorrow does, if you feel comfortable doing so. Not only might it feel empowering, but it may challenge any stereotypes at hand.