“An anti-racist teacher recognizes that racism exists in our school system. Second, an anti-racist teacher agrees that to do nothing about the racism in our school system is to be complicit.” — Joana Chacon, on how dismantling racism starts in schools
As the new academic year approaches, colleges and universities are grappling with the budgetary impact of COVID-19. But something that may be overlooked in these decisions is how they relate to the “profound reexamination of racism in higher education, accelerated by the Black Lives Matter movement.”
For instance, as school administrators consider where to cut back, they may want to reflect on how one particular budgetary policy has led to a slow-down in faculty diversity for the past 25 years: the uncapping of mandatory retirement as anti-age discrimination reform. Because older faculty are most likely to be white and male, research shows the 1994 uncapping limited the number of entry-level faculty positions that could have been held by a more diverse cohort.
This is an interesting case study in diversity policy because “these findings paint a picture of antidiscrimination law at war with itself.” The uncapping policy expanded generational diversity but hindered diversity in terms of gender and race. It speaks to the importance of taking an intersectional approach to diversity policy.
How It Affects You
On a practical level, school administrators can look for ways to make retirement more appealing to faculty. Schools can continue to offer health care, access to campus spaces and resources, and establish mentoring programs that pair junior and retired faculty. Hard decisions will inevitably have to be made during COVID-19, but administrators should remember “the salutary impacts of diverse faculty on an increasingly diverse student body” and how budgetary measures can have unexpected consequences for campus diversity.
Call for Unbiased Coverage
Knowing that the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee would likely be a woman of color, a coalition of women’s rights advocates wrote a public letter to the news media community urging them to grant the candidate unbiased coverage in the coming weeks.
In the letter, they point out that the media has a history of applying double standards to women—and especially women of color—in the public eye. The authors of the letter argue that such reporting actively contributes to the lack of diversity in top positions in society.
Biased coverage can look like:
- bringing up likeability and electability with female candidates but not male ones;
- raising doubts about whether a woman is qualified even when they have greater experience than their male peers;
- overemphasizing a woman of color’s heritage, which “perpetuates a misunderstanding about who is legitimately American”; and
- using pictures of women of color looking angry in the face of injustice to suggest they are too emotional for leadership.
How It Affects You
The authors of the letter connect the current moment of critical reflection on race in the United States to the need for critical reflection on the intersection of race and gender. They write: “Anything less than full engagement in this thoughtful oversight would be a huge step backwards for the progress you have pledged to make.” Likewise, corporate and academic leaders should consider how gender informs their anti-racism efforts.
Queer Women and the Suffrage Movement
Scholars have found that many of the women who led the women’s suffrage movement of the 1900s had romantic relationships with other women. Queer women were often at the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement. Despite this, same-sex relationships in the suffrage movement were downplayed and overlooked.
Dominant depictions of suffragists have led to the erasure of the queer women and women of color who powered the women’s suffrage movement. However, scholars have brought greater attention to the important roles of Black, brown, and queer women in the women’s suffrage movement.
Narratives that focus on heteronormative depictions further marginalize people in the LGBTQ community. While LGBTQ terminology may be new to many, LGBTQ people have always existed. Scholars are disrupting the dominant narrative by highlighting the stories of “suffragists who challenged gender and sexual norms in their everyday lives.”
How It Affects You
Educators and LGBTQ allies should examine how they may be silencing LGBTQ voices and erasing LGBTQ history. When discussing important historical figures, and scholars, make sure to include LGBTQ in these stories. Amplify and highlight both historical and contemporary LGBTQ voices. Disrupt the dominant narrative by affirming the existence of LGBTQ leaders at the forefront of social movements.