News Highlights: Week of September 18

This Hispanic Heritage Month, What’s There to Celebrate? We Asked., by Suzanne Gamboa of NBC News

As Hispanic Heritage Month kicks off this week, there are a few reasons why the Latinx community may not feel exactly celebratory: President Trump’s promise to build a wall along the Mexican-U.S. border, his treatment of DACA recipients, his pardoning of Sheriff Joe Arpaio (convicted for racially profiling and harassing Latinx people), and the recent damage to Latinx communities caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. But at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) gala in D.C., cultural leaders from across the Latinx community shared why they feel like celebrating. Some are heartened by the surge of support for DACA recipients, and others are proud of the increasing Latinx representation in political leadership, small business ownership, and college enrollment. Still others say that when their community is attacked, they know they must celebrate their heritage with “more power and noise than ever [before].”

Without inclusion, diversity initiatives may not be enough, by Chandler Puritty, Lynette R. Strickland, Eanas Alia, Benjamin Blonder, Emily Klein, Michel T. Kohl, Earyn McGee, Maclovia Quintana, Robyn E. Ridley, Beth Tellman, and Leah R. Gerber, from Science Magazine

While the terms “diversity” and “inclusion” often get lumped together, many feel there are important differences between the two. A group of underrepresented minority (URM) scientists clarifies the distinction: “diversity” refers to differences within a group, while “inclusion” means ensuring that all members of that group feel welcome and valued. All too often, diversity initiatives in STEM are purely data-driven, and once diversity statistics improve or quotas are met, the conversation ends. But without inclusion, diversity is just that—a statistic. This particular group of URM scientists says that to create an inclusive institution, members of leadership, faculty, and staff must commit to three things: 1) creating a culture focused on equity and social justice, 2) respecting and valuing diverse perspectives, and 3) promoting work that embraces the interconnectedness of science and society. They write, “Until URM students and researchers can bring their whole selves to their science, no amount of diversity will yield inclusion.”

People with Disabilities Drive Innovation, by Haben Girma via LinkedIn

In 19th-century Italy, the blind countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano needed a way to write letters to her secret lover Pellegrino Turri without an assistant’s transcription—inspiring Turri to invent one of the first working typewriters. The unique challenges created by his lover’s disability led to true innovation. Haben Girma, a deafblind lawyer, author, and public speaker, relates how the constraints faced by people with disabilities give them access to new and unique perspectives. She says the myth that people with disabilities are a burden to society is blown out of the water when you see that such difference drives innovation. She quotes blind astronomer Wanda Diaz Merced in saying that if architectural, digital, and social barriers are removed so that disabled and non-disabled scientists can work side by side, “a huge titanic burst of knowledge will take place.”

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