Exploring Antiracist Accountability this Black History Month

As we continue with our antiracist actions and reflections for Black History Month, we’ve once again suspended our regular blog. This time it’s to bring you resources for antiracist accountability. These include resources for teachers, academics, businesses leaders, and white people in general. We’ve consulted several of them ourselves and believe that all of them are valuable.

Embrace Race

Embrace Race, an organization committed to “raising a generation of children who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race,” has created a series of webinars, action guides, and resources for parents and educators. Some actions Embrace Race suggests for teaching about race include:

  1. Acknowledge your own biases and share things you do to confront bias.
  2. Make sure to highlight the heroes who have fought racial struggles. Embrace Race has compiled a list of antiracist books for grades 6-12.
  3. Connect conversations about racism to the change that youth want to see and discuss how youth can make antiracist change possible.

Teacher reading story to diverse group of students in the classroom

Learning for Justice

Learning for Justice has created learning plans, posters, and teaching strategies for educators working towards racial justice. In addition to classroom resources, Learning for Justice offers webinars and self-paced learning for educators.

According to Learning for Justice, antiracist educators should move away from checklists and instead take a holistic approach. There are many dimensions of schooling (e.g., the demographics of the staff, teaching practices, student well-being, etc.) and antiracist educators should consider all of them. Antiracist educators should maintain a level of humility and “commit to a lifestyle of studying what racism looks like in all its forms.”

Academics for Black Lives

Academics for Black Lives (A4BL) serves as both an antiracist training and collective action group for white academics, and a healing and wellness space for Black academics. Actions within A4BL include

african american academic reading a book

Antiracism Resources from B Lab

B Lab certifies businesses “that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” B Lab developed an antiracism resources page specifically for businesses striving to meet those standards.

Actions include what your company can do, like guiding teams from an antiracist perspective, providing individual support for Black employees, and centering equity and justice in company practices. B Lab also covers what you can do as an individual, like taking political action, fundraising, petitioning, donating to bail funds, and buying from Black-owned B Corps.

Standing Up for Racial Justice

Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) connects antiracist organizing efforts and individuals from across the country. SURJ’s vision is a multi-racial majority working to undermine white supremacy and achieve racial justice. They support community organizing, help groups mobilize, and provide antiracist education.

Actions within SURJ may include:

As Americans celebrate their democracy in the wake of an extremist assault on its very seat, they’d do well to remember that this democracy didn’t come to be by complacent worship of the status quo, but by the ceaseless struggle for progress.

Arash Azizi, on the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman

The Story

Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in this country’s history, crystalised the call for national unity Wednesday as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated. Gorman’s poem sent a message of unity that doesn’t brush over our individual differences. She writes: “…it’s prudent to understand that to fight for one group of people is essentially to fight for all people…All communities are interwoven and affect each other, either directly or indirectly,” adding, “I think it’s important to recognize that it isn’t necessary to erase our differences to be united.”

Our Take

We teach in our courses that we cannot brush over differences if we intend to build inclusion in our workplaces or on our campuses. Brushing over differences makes people feel that their experiences and identities aren’t valued—the opposite of what an inclusive environment should feel like. Gorman skillfully calls for a discerning type of unity, one that acknowledges our differences and our similarities, our country’s history, and its potential.

How It Affects You

If you haven’t already, consider taking a moment to read Gorman’s poem, “The Hill We Climb.” Can Gorman’s work help set the tone for the diversity and inclusion work in your workplace or on your campus?

President Biden and Racial Justice

The Story

Activists are cautiously optimistic about President Biden’s commitment to racial justice. Even in his powerful new position, addressing racism is a massive undertaking. Activists are curious to see what the president will focus on because they know race impacts all aspects of our society. The fact that he is a white male is also important to keep in mind. As activist Jeanelle Austin explains, “…Vice-President Kamala Harris is huge in terms of being able to advise the president as to an experience that he has never had; he has never lived in a black body…But it’s also going to be crucial for her to listen because she still doesn’t embody everybody’s experience.”

Protester holding sign that says End Systemic Racism

Our Take

We are also curious to see how President Biden approaches the goal of racial justice, and what he will focus on first. Activist Dreisen Heath says Biden should 1) study reparations for the Black community and 2) work on decreasing the footprint of law enforcement in our daily lives. We hope to see more discussion of and action toward these goals in workplaces and on campuses across the country.

How It Affects You

This is an exciting and challenging moment. We have a president who has stated his commitment to racial justice at a time when more people than ever are calling for it. Now we have to see how he will turn his words into actions, and take it upon ourselves to voice our concerns and goals along the way. We can also use this moment to work in parallel with the federal government, addressing racial inequality in our workplaces and on our campuses.

Indigenous People and the Inauguration

The Story

While the inaugural events featured tribes across the country celebrating, some Indigenous people were disappointed by Jennifer Lopez’s performance of “This Land Is Your Land.” The song, “called to mind the nation’s long history of land disputes involving tribes” as well as the current Land Back movement. The Land Back movement is an effort by some tribes to reclaim ancestral lands. Cherie Tebo, a Winnebago tribal member, claims the song choice demonstrates how little some Americans know about Indigenous people and their struggle to be included in the full American proposition. Despite this, Tebo “sees an opportunity for tribes to have a seat at the table in Biden’s administration.”

Our Take

This story is a good reminder that when we work to include some groups we could be inadvertently excluding others. Woody Guthrie’s song is meant to be a call for full inclusion, and featuring it during the inauguration was meant to be inclusive as well. So what can we learn from this? Listen to and amplify Indigenous voices, and stay informed about issues affecting Indigenous communities, such as the Land Back movement.

Mount Rushmore

How It Affects You

Here are some ways you can include the perspectives of Indigenous people and other people of color in your school, campus, or workplace events:

  1. Be proactive by learning about BIPOC issues and terminology from BIPOC experts and scholars.
  2. Involve a diversity of perspectives in your event planning so that all voices are heard and acknowledged, and no perspectives are overlooked or sidelined.
  3. Continue to amplify BIPOC voices and raise awareness of these issues before, during, and after an event.

The coverage, the treatment, the conversation is firmly ensconced in the structures of white supremacist delusion. This is how America treats its Americans. Americans are white. The rest of us are disposable collateral to the project of white supremacist delusion.

– Sonya Renne Taylor, on the storming of the capitol by Trump-supporting insurrectionists

Race, Police, and the Capitol Riots

The Story

The story of how Trump-supporting insurrectionists successfully breached the capitol building last week is still unfolding. But the role that race played on January 6th is relatively clear. Author Alex Vitale, among many others, points out that the mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter protests of the past few years were met with a high level of police violence and restrictions. Many are comparing that to the lack of police force and their decidedly less severe response on Wednesday, when a mob of mostly white men stormed the capitol, brandishing weapons.

Our Take

We don’t have all the details to explain why there wasn’t more security on Wednesday. But we do know that:

How It Affects You

Vitale asks white people to use this moment to critically reflect on the role policing plays in furthering racial inequality, and to consider alternatives to policing. He says that white people need to show courage and willingness to live with the little bit of disorder and discomfort that comes with “producing a more just and ultimately more stable society.”

Helping Youth Make Sense of Chaos

The Story

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) has issued a statement urging educators and caregivers to help youth process the storming of the United States Capitol. NASP argues that educators should help youth understand these events “in ways that are both truthful and focused on their personal safety, security, honest reflection, and a belief that positive change is possible.”

young student studying on laptop

Our Take

By engaging youth in discussions about racism and privilege, educators can help students understand the “history and current realities of racism in this country.” Avoiding these conversations is no longer an option, as youth turn to educators to make sense of chaos. Educators can help youth shift the conversation from silence and complacency to positive social change.

How It Affects You

Here are some ways educators can help youth understand the storming of the U.S. Capitol.

  1. Provide students with opportunities for sharing their feelings and concerns regarding the news.
  2. Discuss the history of racism and its current impact in this country.
  3. Model anti-racist behavior, such as acknowledging bias and privilege, and calling out racism.

A Historical Take on the Capitol Riots

The Story

Author Adrienne Marie Brown reflects on a response to the capitol riots that she keeps seeing pop up—the notion that “This isn’t American.” She gives us a historical lens to see that the riots are only the latest in a long legacy of white supremacist violence in this country. brown writes that much like the confederacy, “Thousands of unmasked people showed up ready to fight and die rather than quarantine, rather than relinquish supremacy, and rather than participate in a multiracial society.”

Our Take

We think brown’s comparison is apt; and in particular her characterization of the white supremacist riot as a mutation of the ideas held by the confederacy. She explains that while emancipation was true on paper, racist systems and ideas were not abolished. Rather, they morphed into the prison-industrial complex and Jim Crow. Jim Crow then morphed into modern-day racist policies and microaggressions. The insurrection of January 6, 2021 is another instance of racism that will end only “when it is no longer controversial to assert that Black lives matter.”

Black lives matter sign held up at protest

How It Affects You

brown emphasizes that we all need time to process and grieve the events unfolding before us. As a facilitator, she knows that difficult topics left unaddressed will only fester, and eventually undermine the whole endeavor. She asks us all to look to grassroots organizations, stay safe, and “center in revolutionary love.”

Bringing Anti-Racist Practices into 2021

To close out 2020, we took a look at our most popular posts of the year. One message is clear: You’re interested in how you can build and sustain an anti-racist culture.

This year, we covered how you could bring the BLM movement into your workplace and integrate anti-racism into your teaching. We also gathered anti-racism resources that guided you in learning more about and speaking out about systemic racism and acting as an ally to Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC).

Our Top Three Blog Posts from 2020

Bringing the BLM Movement into the Workplace

On How to Integrate Anti-Racism Into Your Teaching

DiversityEdu’s Anti-Racism Resource Round-up

As we enter 2021 under a new administration and evolving COVID-19 challenges, it’s time to cement your commitment to building anti-racist culture in the year to come.

Make an Ongoing Commitment

Whether it’s a weekly volunteer shift or a recurring monthly donation, find an action that you only have to commit to once, but that prompts you to act on a regular basis. This is an easy way to stay engaged when the media moves its attention away from issues of systemic racism, or when life gets in the way of your good intentions to support Black, Indigenous and other people of color in the long run.

Join a Community

A great way to ensure you’re regularly invited to take anti-racist actions is to join a community of activists, anti-racist educators, or to partner with like-minded business leaders. Community support is the single most effective way to stay engaged. It helps you weather challenges that occur along the way to building anti-racist culture. It also establishes a foundation of resources, new connections, and innovations.

Listen to BIPOC Anti-Racist Scholars

Whether you follow BIPOC scholars on social media or read foundational books, such as Ibram Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist, continue to listen to BIPOC voices. Use what you learn to help inform your ongoing actions.

We hope this serves as a blueprint for other professional teams and the 200-plus high school teams in the Cleveland area. If there is a school or team that truly cares about fighting racism, these mascots cannot coexist.

– Cynthia Connolly of the Cleveland Indigenous Coalition, on the Cleveland Indians commitment to change their name

POC or BIPOC?

The Story

The term BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) has recently entered the mainstream media. “BIPOC” aims to resolve concerns raised by some Black and Indigenous people that the commonly used term “People of Color” or “POC” is an overgeneralization. They say it fails to acknowledge the specific issues only Black and Indigenous people face. At the same time, research shows that the term People of Color has a coalition-building effect, uniting people of many different backgrounds around what they have in common—marginalization in a society and culture dominated by whiteness.

Our Take

When it comes to identity terminology, context matters. If we’re talking generally about people of various ethnicities navigating a predominantly white institution, it makes sense to say “people of color.” But if we’re discussing people experiencing police brutality because they’re Black, it makes sense to say “Black people,” not “people of color.” Sometimes it’s important and necessary to emphasize specific differences between groups. And sometimes it’s valuable to emphasize what those groups have in common.

How It Affects You

When determining which term to use,

Race, Class, and Classical Music

The Story

The world of classical music is grappling with its lack of diversity. Classical music critics are discussing how to increase representation in orchestras and ensembles. But some say the discussion is incomplete unless it addresses the issue of class. The lack of racial diversity from conductors to audience members is largely due to class-related hurdles that intersect with race.

person of color playing cello

As writer Robert Jackson Wood reminds us, “in 2018, the median income of Black workers in the U.S. was $41,361, while the median income of white workers was $70,642.” In classical music, instruments, training, and tickets are prohibitively expensive for most people. Increasing representation in orchestra and ensembles is a worthy goal, but it will not change the racial composition of audiences.

Our Take

Class is important, but often overlooked in conversations about diversity. The example of classical music is an interesting one because access to and engagement with classical music has long been an indicator of class. Even if someone happens to have exposure to classical music and develops an interest in it, it’s unlikely they’ll have the resources necessary to become a classical musician, let alone attend performances. If we consider the racial wealth gap, if the person is Black, there is an even smaller chance they’ll enter the world of classical music.

How It Affects You

You can start to incorporate discussions of class as part of your diversity and inclusion initiatives and anti-racist commitments by:

Disabled Feminism

The Story

The New Women Podcast Series was created by writer Louise Page to raise awareness about disabled pioneers in the feminist movement. The series consists of fictionalized retellings of the lives of Helen Keller, Mabel Normand, and Rosa May Billinghurst from the point of view of the women themselves. The idea of the podcast came to Page due to her experiences as a disabled writer who is often asked to write on feminism and disability, but rarely on the intersection of the two topics. According to Page, she “wanted to show three women who experienced disability, and held feminist views, right at the beginning of the movement.”

Our Take

Louise Page notes that disabled people “are often viewed through a sanitized lens.” When the life of Helen Keller is taught in schools, “her radical political beliefs are often left out of the narrative.” The effect is that Helen Keller’s life is reduced to her childhood experiences with Anne Sullivan, rather than depicting her as a full human being. By taking an intersectional perspective, as Louise Page does, we can avoid “putting disability, and disabled people, into neat boxes.”

woman in a wheelchair in the workplace

How It Affects You

Here are some ways you can help create better representation for disabled people:

Systemic racism will not be undone with a summer of protest and installing a new president. Intention created slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration and the iconic Black hood. Intention is required to dismantle and repair what supremacy still breaks.

Dr. Sheryll Cashin, on the role of residential segregation in producing racial inequality

Ethnic Studies in K-12 Education

The Story

There is a growing national movement to teach ethnic studies in K-12 schools. In the broadest sense, ethnic studies covers community identity, history, and culture. Students learn to look at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, language, and economic class, as well as systemic oppression and community activism. Some states have standards for required ethnic studies courses. Other states have banned such courses.

K-12 students of diverse ethnic backgrounds seated in classroom

Our Take

Given that almost half of voters in the 2020 election chose a candidate who deals in false narratives about race and ethnicity, it’s crucial that ethnic studies becomes a priority in K-12 education. Research shows that ethnic studies courses improve attendance and graduation rates, as well as state test scores and GPAs. Plus, students are increasingly calling for their schools to offer ethnic studies courses.

How It Affects You

Now is a great time to review the status of ethnic studies at your K-12 school, college, or university. Make the case for requiring ethnic studies courses if they aren’t already required. In the workplace, given that most employees have likely never taken an ethnic studies course, consider how you can incorporate ethnic studies into your diversity and inclusion programming.

Rethinking American Museums

The Story

Between COVID-19 and the national reckoning over race, some American museums are radically rethinking their approach to curation and their role in the community. The new movement calls for building trust, understanding, and connection with visitors, and using those connections to provide context for, rather than censor, controversial artwork. The vision is to transform museums from “impassive establishments” to community centers that encourage visitors to share their lived experiences.

Our Take

This movement goes beyond the traditional approach of diversifying museum boards to directly engaging the community in the museum’s approach and purpose. It aligns with a culturally responsive framework, where practitioners “honor the cultural context” of a project by engaging with “needed, shared life experience and understandings.” We hope more museums, and other institutions, adopt this approach.

woman in museum looking at art on the wall

How It Affects You

Schools and workplaces can take inspiration from some of the most innovative museums across the country. Consider how these actions relate to the work you do:

Rebuilding Trust in Healthcare during COVID-19

The Story

The Black Coalition Against COVID-19, a group of Black doctors and nurses, published a letter on how to best protect the Black community during COVID-19. The coalition encourages Black people to get vaccinated once a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 is available. The coalition adds that healthcare professionals must do more to earn the trust of the Black community.

According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, only 17 percent of Black people say they would definitely get vaccinated against COVID-19. Scientific distrust ranks as one of the top reasons for avoiding the vaccine. This distrust has a historical precedent. For example, the Tuskegee Syphilis Study conducted between 1932 and 1972 specifically targeted the Black community. Currently, Black people continue to experience biased treatment from healthcare professionals.

Our Take

The feelings of distrust and biased treatment Black people experience when receiving healthcare are examples of how racism continues to impact Black lives. Just as the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 urges all healthcare professionals to “do more” to earn the trust of the Black community, it is up to all of us to do more to be anti-racist.

How It Affects You

Anti-racist efforts are crucial for building trust, particularly within institutions and industries with a history of racism. The Black Coalition Against COVID-19 writes, “Respect for our Black bodies and our Black lives must be a core value for those who are working to find the vaccine for this virus that has already taken so many of our loved ones.” Scholars, teachers, and workplace leaders can uphold this value by committing to anti-racist academic and workplace practices.

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


VP-Elect Kamala Harris

The Story

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.”

Our Take

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.”

How It Affects You

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 Thanksgiving Myth

The Story

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.”

Family dinner at Thanksgiving

Our Take

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.

How It Affects You

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 as Diversity

The Story

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.Black man with a disability with colleagues in the workplace

Our Take

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.

How It Affects You

Whether you work on campus or in an office, you can dig deeper into disability inclusion by:

Election 2020

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.

At School

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:

On Campus

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 Workplace

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


The Term Latinx

The Story

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.

Our Take

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.

How It Affects You

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.

Women’s Careers during COVID-19

The Story

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.

mother working remotely at home next to child

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.

Our Take

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.

How It Affects You

Here are a few ways to remain gender-inclusive as we navigate the COVID-19 job economy:

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The Story

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.

Our Take

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.

Indigenous peoples day celebration

 

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.

How It Affects You

Here are some ways you can show your support for Indigenous people in the United States.

  1. Spread awareness of Indigenous issues, whether through social media, at work, or in the classroom.
  2. Donate money or assistance to Indigenous organizations.
  3. Speak out against the colonialism and xenophobia that continue to displace Indigenous people.

 

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

Race and Age at IBM

The Story

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.

IBM inclusive hiring and ageism

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.

Our Take

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.

How It Affects You

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.

Black Trans Lives Matter

The Story

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.”

Our Take

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?”

black trans lives matter march

How It Affects You

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.

COVID-19 Data on American Indians

The Story

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.”

Our Take

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.

How It Affects You

Faculty and administrators should be aware of how their data collection and reporting practices may impact communities of color, including Indigenous communities:

  1. Researchers need to provide communities of color with easy access to data that impacts them.
  2. Researchers should avoid data erasure through racial misclassification. By classifying several racial categories as “Other,” researchers may be erasing marginalized communities’ needs from their findings and recommendations.