Anti-Racism in STEMM

I learned a lot from reading Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist“. There were times, though, when I wasn’t able to transfer those ideas and actions into the environment and culture of university and higher education. This new paper, “Responses to 10 common criticisms of anti-racism action in STEMM” (15 July 2021) carefully and clearly makes the connections I was missing. (The second M is STEMM is medicine, btw.)

Gosztyla ML, Kwong L, Murray NA, Williams CE, Behnke N, et al. (2021) Responses to 10 common criticisms of anti-racism action in STEMM. PLOS Computational Biology 17(7): e1009141.

As you can tell from the title, the paper addresses 10 criticisms and suggests actions to counter the criticism. Do these sound familiar to you?

  1. “There is no evidence of racism in STEMM.”
  2. “Don’t politicize STEMM! Stick to the science, not social issues.”
  3. “I’m not racist, so I don’t need to do anything.”
  4. “I only hire/award/cite based on merit; I do not need to consider race.”
  5. “There just aren’t as many BIPOC who want to work in STEMM.”
  6. “Diversity initiatives are unfair to nonminority students/faculty; it’s reverse discrimination.”
  7. “Education is the great equalizer.”
  8. “I don’t agree with racist statements, but people should be allowed to express their opinions and have debates.”
  9. “Focusing on anti-Black racism ignores the experiences of non-Black POC, in addition to sexism, ableism, etc.”
  10. “Improving racial equity and inclusivity does not benefit STEMM as a whole.”

If you’ve heard any one of these and you’re not sure how to respond to counter the misconception, I urge you to read the article.

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