On the Impact of COVID-19 on American Indians

“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 Although IBM claimed the workers’ skill sets were out of date for their current needs, laid-off workers were often hired back as contractors at lower wages and without benefits.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.

 

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Categories
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ageism
black lives matter
COVID-19
inclusive hiring
inclusive workplace practices
indigenous people
LGBTQ
native americans
transgender rights

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