On Supporting Black Student Activism

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

Black Student Activism

The Story

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

  • feel unheard,
  • deeply aware of racial inequities,
  • desire to participate in activism but don’t “always know how to go about it,” and
  • are motivated by a “sense of group belonging and collective action.” 

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.”

Our Take

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

  1. diversifying their search committees and faculty and
  2. giving their diversity and inclusion initiatives meaningful resources and access.

How It Affects You

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.”

 

People with Disabilities Share Their Stories

The Story

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.”

Supporting Black Student Activism

Our Take

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 It Affects You

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.

 

Lack of COVID-19 Data from Communities of Color

The Story

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.”

Supporting Black Student Activism

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.

Our Take

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.”

How It Affects You

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.

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DiversityEdu Team

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Categories
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activism
black students
COVID-19
disability
health disparities
inclusive communication

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