Black History Month Documentaries

“A lot of people who say, “Just teach the standards” or “Just teach your content” don’t understand that I’m already doing political work just by saying that I teach the standards. I am already indoctrinating, if you will.”
Lorena Germán, on the damage white supremacy causes in education and how to be an antiracist teacher in response 

Black History Month Documentaries 

Some argue that the history taught during Black History Month is often watered down. A recent example is schools across the country attempting to censor the 1619 Project and Black Lives Matter-related curricula. Judy Berman of TIME writes, “The chilling implication is that teaching even the most anodyne version of Black history—or simply reaffirming…that the lives of Black students matter—should be seen as the perpetuation of propaganda.”

For Black History Month 2021, three new docuseriesAmend, The Black Church, and Hip Hop Uncovered—approach Black culture from three distinct angles. While the content is radically different between them, they all share a common thread: “Black directors, producers and on-camera talent at their helms—and, not coincidentally, a disinclination to sugarcoat the devastating effects of systemic racism to appease white viewers.”

Our Take 

As we wrapped up our antiracist action calendar last week, we reflected on what it means to be antiracist during Black History Month in 2021. These new docuseries invite us to unlearn the Black history we were taught in school and engage in authentic histories and more complicated truths as told by Black creators. This is a good foundation for antiracist action.

How It Affects You

How have you been approaching Black History Month in your classroom or workplace? Is there room to expand the range of viewpoints explored and seek out the more complicated truths of our national story? Consider the perspectives behind the history you teach or are prescribed to teach, and whom that version of history serves. 

A Surge in Anti-Asian Violence 

From the start of the pandemic, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders from across the country have faced increased harassment and physical attacks. Many community advocates say Donald Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric around the coronavirus incited the disturbing increase in violence.

It’s difficult to say for sure whether the violent incidents—often involving perpetrators shoving seniors to the ground and seriously injuring them—are “purely motivated by bigotry.” But statistics do show a significant increase since the start of the pandemic. In New York City, for instance, there were three anti-Asian hate crimes recorded by the NYPD in 2019. In 2020, there were 29, 24 of which had a “coronavirus motivation.”

Our Take 

We want to take a moment to acknowledge the death of Vicha Ratanapakdee. Vicha was an 84-year-old Thailand native living in San Francisco. On January 28th, he was shoved to the ground in what his family says was a racially motivated act. He died a few days after the incident. 

How It Affects You 

Politicians and community advocates are calling for action in response to the surge in violent incidents. Some are forming block watch programs, others want to pass legislation to improve hate crime reporting mechanisms and support for victims. Work with your community to raise awareness of and support legislation that you feel addresses this alarming trend, and consider local actions you can take to support and protect Asian-Americans in your community.

Diversifying Faculty and the Leaky Pipeline

While student activists around the nation have demanded more diverse faculty on college campuses, progress has been slow. The modest increase in faculty of color is partially due to the leaky pipeline in academia. The leaky pipeline refers to the fact that “fewer underrepresented minorities remain on an academic trajectory at each step of the process, from undergraduate through the faculty ladder to full professor.” The leaky pipeline results in fewer candidates of color available in the applicant pool. 

Our Take

Efforts to increase faculty diversity will continue to show slow to no progress until the leaky pipeline is addressed. Undergraduate and graduate student recruitment can impact the diversity of future academic workforces by recruiting more students of color. Once faculty of color are hired, they are often subjected to biases and unfair expectations, which make them less likely to remain in academia.  

How It Affects You

Here are some ways faculty and administrators at colleges and universities can tackle the leaky pipeline.

  1. Provide more research experiences for undergraduate students of color. Positive early research experiences increase the likelihood undergraduate students will attend graduate school.
  2. Demystify graduate school and the graduate school application process. First-generation college students may not be aware of the benefits of graduate school or may be overwhelmed by the application process. 
  3. Broaden your faculty search. When conducting faculty searches, search committees should consider whether criteria could be broadened to include more potential candidates. 
  4. Address workplace culture and climate. Address workplace microaggressions and other types of bias and discrimination to ensure faculty of color remain at your institution.
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