AHR, ‘Hard History’ & Diversity in Tech

‘Decolonizing’ a Journal, by Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed

After the American Historical Review allowed Raymond Wolters, a professor whom critics argue makes racist arguments using flawed research, to review a book on inequality and urban education, editor Alex Lichtenstein announced a plan to revamp the publication’s procedures. How will they accomplish this? They plan to diversify the editorial board, nominate new associate editors to diversify and oversee reviews, collect data to analyze publishing patterns, adjust criteria for who gets to review, start an ambassadors program to find more diverse sources for submissions, and create a diversity committee. Lichtenstein emphasizes that this is not a “one-off effort” and is not prompted only by the controversial book review by Wolters. He writes, “I have come to believe that the AHR should take the risk of confronting its own potential complicity in the inability of the profession to divest itself fully of its past lack of openness to scholars and scholarship due to race, color, creed, gender, sexuality, nationality and a host of other assigned characteristics.”

Why Schools Fail To Teach Slavery’s ‘Hard History’, by Cory Turner of NPR

Only eight percent of American students know that the South seceded because of slavery, according to a new report, Teaching Hard History: American Slavery from the Southern Poverty Law Center. The report reveals that the topic of slavery is mishandled in most U.S. public school classrooms. Many textbooks and teachers frame slavery as strictly a Southern issue, teach the topic only from the point of view of white people, avoid explaining that slavery depended on ideas of white supremacy, and focus on the positive (the abolitionist movement) rather than more disturbing and painful realities. Even well-meaning teachers express how difficult it is to address slavery, especially with inadequate textbooks. A teacher from California explains how some Black students feel uncomfortable because the only Black people they see in textbooks are enslaved people. A teacher in Massachusetts explains how to address the topic more successfully: “you need to have a really good classroom climate, where students feel that they’re not being blamed for what happened in the American past….It is 100 percent not their fault that there is racism in this country. It will be their fault if they don’t do anything about it in the next 20 years.”

The Origins of Diversity Data in Tech, by Rachel Gutman of The Atlantic

Tracy Chou, a cofounder of Project Include, talks with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg about her experience working in Silicon Valley. She describes being questioned on her decisions more than her male colleagues were, not being believed until a man re-stated her point, and being “petted:” “People said things like, ‘Wow, you’re so cute,’ and would make me feel as if it were a novelty that I was even there.” To combat the sexist culture of the tech industry, Chou initiated a call to action for companies like Apple, Facebook and Google to release their diversity datarevealing that women hold less than 30 percent of leadership and technical roles in the industry. In her previous job, she pushed for better diversity initiatives but was told they “weren’t worse than average,” so no action was needed. Goldberg notes how unusual this is in such a competitive industrytech leaders don’t normally settle for average. Chou says part of the problem is the myth of meritocracy, explaining, “It’s easier for people to believe that they have created an environment that is great, and anybody who has problems with it is deficient…The people who are at the top want to believe in meritocracy because it means that they deserve their successes.”

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