Topics from the Anti-Black Racism Professional Development Workshop

Two full days of the professional development, “Confronting Anti-Black Racism on College Campuses,” drew praise from participants and attendees for the way it was organized and hosted by Stan State Associate Professor of Psychology Aletha M. Harven, the breadth of its topics and the scope of the information.

The sessions with Black scholars offered lessons that were:

Profound — “All lives do not matter until Black Lives Matter.”

Insightful — “This isn’t a moment. This is my life’s work.” “This is exhausting work.” “There is racial battle fatigue.”

Thought-provoking — “Being allies means being connected to the community, listening to what Black people say, sitting in your discomfort. When you’re hearing something that you don’t like and it makes you uncomfortable, sit with that in silence.”

Humorous — “There’s no point questioning who is most oppressed. Don’t play the Oppression Olympics.”

Haunting — “As a Black man, every time I leave my house, I am fearful that I may not come home. After George Floyd happened, I was afraid to leave my house, and I didn’t for three days.”

Encouraging — “See the humanity in everyone.” “Be angelic troublemakers.”

Harven organized the professional development training from a place of hope. She said Black people are always hopeful. The response was more than 1,000 attendees.

Those who attended and wish to review parts, or all of the training, and those unable to attend may review the recorded sessions on the CIENCIA website.

Here are some of the topics and highlights discussed in the sessions:

Welcome

Dr. Aletha M. Harven, program organizer and host, associated professor of psychology and global teacher educator, California State University, Stanislaus

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“I was sitting in all these meetings on campus and hearing faculty and staff members talk about social injustice, with no real talk on anti-Black racism. In fact, the words anti-Black racism weren’t being spoken. In order to effectively address an issue, we have to be willing to name it. I could tell my colleagues wanted to do something to help but weren’t sure what to do. So, my response was to invite colleagues of mine to come together and put on a number of sessions that would provide college educators with critical, timely information that could guide and empower them in helping the Black community.

I wanted to move people to action, particularly on my college campus.

My goals for the program are for participants to: develop a deeper understanding of anti-Black racism; understand the impact of anti-Black racism on Black faculty, staff and students; learn strategies for effectively disrupting anti-Black racism on their college campuses; and learn what it takes to become effective allies to the Black community.

These goals helped me organize the presentations.”

Anti-Black Racism in the Academy

Dr. Tyrone Howard, professor of education and Pritzker Family Endowed Chair, University of California Los Angeles

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The native of Compton has worked toward educational equality throughout his career and in 2010 founded and serves as director of UCLA’s Black Male Institute. He opened the two-day program with an overview of deeper conversations to follow.

There’s a need for a pipeline for K-12 students of color, particularly Black men.

Racial violence isn’t confined to the streets. There’s instructional violence, intellectual violence, moral violence and violence perpetrated and sustained within institutions.

Anti-racism means actively changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes so power is redistributed and shared equally.

White people must take the lead in making the change.

Racism is rife in academics. Who are the deans, department chairs, counselors, administrators, chancellor? Where do you see Blacks? Who is promoted and how? The pool of tenured Black faculty is small, meaning there is a small chance of seeing future deans, administrators or chancellors.

There’s discomfort about Black Lives Matters:

  • It doesn’t mean Black lives matter more. That’s never been said.
  • Shifting focus away from Black Lives is a way of saying that the tragic events that affect Black Lives do not matter and is a form of violence and anti-Blackness. It operates from a colorblind approach in thinking we all start from the same safe place.
  • Black people are asking for the right to be seen in their unique experience in the world: to be seen, heard and valued.
  • All lives do not matter until Black lives matter.

On a college campus:

Acknowledge the Black tax. Black faculty consistently explain and mentor other faculty on all matters related to diversity and equity. They mentor Black students, and that work doesn’t show up on their dossier. There’s more questioning of the rigor, methods and quality of race specific work.

There are ongoing, persistent racial microaggressions.

How to disrupt anti-Blackness on campus:

  • Cite Black scholars
  • Advocate for Black faculty
  • Identify and speak about the Black experience
  • Try to remain aware of uninformed bias toward Black people
  • Stop questioning the value of Black scholarship
  • Develop a strategic plan to bring more Black students to our campuses

Be what Bayard Rostin called, “a group of angelic troublemakers.”

“Becoming Anti-Racist Educators”

Dr. D’Artagnan Scorza, founder and executive director Social Justice Learning Institutions; UCLA Alumni President; Fielding School Public Health Lecturer

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The UCLA graduate returned to his native Inglewood to start the Social Justice Learning Institute, which is dedicated to improving the health, education and well-being of youth and the community of color by empowering them to enact social change through education.

There’s no neutrality in racism. Either you endorse racism, or you reject it as an anti-racist.

Racism is pervasive in social institutions and norms.

We’re taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage. We’re not taught to see it as a privilege for some.

In classes:

  • Understand your story and that of your students; be aware of different upbringings and environments.
  • Encourage evaluation of belief systems.
  • Provide information clearly and concisely
  • Pose questions that evaluate one’s own contradictions.
  • Model self-reflection. Summarize what you are hearing. Listen to what students are saying.
  • Encourage students to act on their beliefs.
  • Acknowledge racial trauma.

Racism is the result of hierarchy. Don’t question who is the most oppressed. Don’t assess blame. Racism is embedded in daily experiences regardless of your level of awareness. Confronting racism will benefit everyone. Confronting racism is painful and joyful. Take responsibility to help everyone.

Which groups feel most at home on campus and which feel like they’re unwanted guests? To what extent do you feel you are working toward welcoming and including them? What are the policies that do that? Who inhabits positions of power?

Look at your positionality:

  • How do you interact with colleagues?
  • What institutional barriers do you erect to prevent using new curriculum?
  • Review your course content.
  • Challenge your beliefs about what constitutes your ideas of an “ideal student.”
  • Interrogate the relationship between race, gender and class.
  • Explore and incorporate an anti-racist pedagogy. Challenge racist comments.
  • Ensure equitable access to student services.

“Dear Allies: Step Up!”

Dr. Fran’Cee Brown-McClure, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, Union College (New York)

Dr. Cleveland Hayes, professor of education and associated dean of academic affairs, Indiana University

Dr. Zack Ritter, associate dean of students and lecturer, CSU Dominguez Hills and UCLA

Dr. Angela Chen, director Dream Center, UC Irvine.

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This lively conversation addressed the idea of allies and the distinction between authentic allyship and performative allyship.

Among the observations of the panel:

Being an ally often means a lack of risk. Are you willing to advance the cause because it helps others, not because it makes you feel good?

Not one Black person asked for Aunt Jemima to be taken off a syrup bottle. That’s a public relations move by a company still controlled by an all-white board.

Institutions of higher education make similar gestures. Talking isn’t the same as doing something for students, staff and faculty of color. Do they have faculty of color and all-white/all-male boards of trustees?

A Black Lives Matter flag or letters painted on campus or murals are performative. There must be real action and it takes work.

It’s exhausting work, and Black people have been doing it for years.

White people are now engaged largely because they’re confined to their homes by the pandemic and had time to watch what happened to George Floyd. That violence happens every day and has for centuries. Will white people be as engaged in a year when they return to a semblance of normal life?

In terms of education, it takes risk to create sustainable change and there is resistance even in this moment.

Too much of what is advertised as change is window dressing by white leaders. If institutions want systemic change, they need to listen to their Black and brown students who are protesting and asking for change. Reform isn’t needed. Policies and procedures need to be torn down and replaced with something new.

The history of what led to this moment needs to be acknowledged. To ignore it diminishes the experience of Black people and people of color.

Being allies means being connected to the community, listening to what black people say, sitting in your discomfort. When you’re hearing something that you don’t like and it makes you uncomfortable, sit with that in silence. Be aware even well-meaning people are going to say and do the wrong thing in trying to be an authentic ally.

Authentic allyship includes having empathy, grief, outrage, taking responsibility/holding yourself/others accountable, educating yourself, examining privilege and using it to help others, being committed to anti-racist work and sitting with discomfort. Also, it’s remembering it’s not about you.

“Disrupting Anti-Blackness in Support of Black Students”

Dr. DeLeon Gray, associate professor of educational psychology and university faculty scholar, North Carolina State University

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While he spoke with graduate students, whom he advises, in mind, Gray’s words were important for educators as well, as he presented ideas related to the problem, resistance practices, communal learning activity and representation.

Tell the public how scholars of color contribute to the rigor and authenticity of your work. Tag the author in your social media posts. Find works by scholars of color.

Re-write history about ideas that have been distorted, discredited or overlooked.

Spend time with participants without looking to gather data. “Just Be” in the space with them. Consider the community from which they come and the community in which they are learning. Think about how you give back to that community and encourage students to think about this concept as well.

Identify cultural lenses that speak to the same issue, and remix (or reimagine) the frameworks in your field by weaving cultural frameworks into mainstream theoretical perspectives.

Utilize qualitative methods, approaches and philosophies to shed light on cultural blind spots that are mascaraed as objectivity.

Make methodological contributions to the Black body and mind through the integration of critical quantitative approaches or mixed methods.

“Promoting Racial Justice and Equality”

Dr. Ivory Toldson, professor of counseling psychology, Howard University; editor-in-chief of Journal of Negro Education; appointed by President Barack Obama to engage in critical strategic work regarding the continued advancement of Historically Black Colleges & Universities

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Introducing newly funded work surrounding re-imagining all our systems, which includes our educational system, Toldson notes change must begin with education.

It needs to start with conversations about the mission of an institution and how well it’s being met when viewed through the lens of racism. The real change, though, must come, as the Black Lives Matter movement demonstrates, from rank-and-file workers.

Structures currently in place dictate one’s background is a barrier to success. Studies debunk that idea, but it’s a notion borne of institutional practices.

Educators should be willing to use their capital to make things better for the next generation.

Some people of color have long followed the accepted educational standards to advance in their own careers, but they need to consider if that is what’s best, or if working to change the rules would be better.

Educators need to be evaluated not just on what they publish or what they do in the classroom, but how they impact their students outside those four walls. Is an elementary school teacher who goes to a second-hand shop to buy clothes for a child they see wearing the same dirty clothes every day being rewarded for that service? Most teachers want to help but are told they can’t. It should be encouraged. Technology could be used to track the progress of a child who’s benefitted from a teacher’s helping hand.

“Curriculum Materials Explored”

Dr. Rema Reynolds, associate professor of leadership and counseling, Eastern Michigan University

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Saying this is not a moment, but her life’s work, Reynolds noted the fight against racism and for racial justice has existed since the first Black person was brought to this country in chains.

It will take everyone working for change, particularly colleagues beholden to the status quo.

Change can happen overnight as it did when universities dropped SAT scores for admission in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reynolds has fought to get rid of SAT scores for years.

There’s a desire to go back to normal, but normal is rooted in racism.

She admits being complicit, following the rules of education to advance in the system, but she’s been aware of racism in school since her first day of kindergarten.

Education is liberation and what teachers do or don’t do has life or death implications.

Current pedagogical and curricular choices undergird white supremacy, capitalism, racism and anti-Blackness.

Teachers can teach to change the world, by changing their department, curriculum and pedagogy.

She urged faculty members to think about their course syllabi. Who is represented? Does it speak to Black students or is it an agent of your system? She suggested teachers be aware of how they may make changes when they consider assessments, readings, group work, lectures, guest lectures, planning and their response to challenges.

“Talking About Race”

Dr. Rema Reynolds

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Understand that race and ethnicity are not the same thing.

Equity means I get what I need. Equality means we all get what we need.

To teach race and racism takes bravery. There’s not a template or rule book.

Consider:

  • Respect
  • Take a learner’s posture
  • Use abundant apologies, not for what you say, but if it hurts someone
  • Trust yourself and your students’ stories
  • Be honest — you don’t know it all

Anti-racism is in vogue. Now is the time to go all in. You have protection now to talk about race and racism. There can be no pushback for it. Go boldly without fear.

“Retention Promotion and Tenure” and “Navigating Expectations”

Dr. Toluwalogo B. Odumosu, assistant professor science, technology and society; assistant professor, engineering, University of Virginia

Dr. Cleveland Hayes, professor of education and associated dean of academic affairs, Indiana University

Profiled in an article entitled “Botched” in Higher Education, Toluwalogo Odumosu shared the story of his attempt to obtain tenure at the University of Virginia. Despite his credentials — degrees from the University of Lagos, in his native Nigeria, and Cornell University, and post-doctoral work at Harvard, where he was named a Teacher of Excellence — his publications, his service and the support of his colleagues and dean, the committee denied him tenure.

His only conclusion was that it was because he is Black.

He went public with his story and now the University president is reviewing the case. He has been offered positions at other universities in the wake of the publicity and he is careful in what he says as he weighs his options.

Cleveland Hayes shared how he managed to navigate the tricky waters of tenure for a black professor during his time at a private college in Southern California. He received tenure and now is a tenured professor at Indiana University.

“Mindful Engagement”

Solunis Nicole Bay Adam, somatic coach

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The somatic coach led the audience in breathing exercises to calm the mind before and after day-long sessions focused on combating anti-Black racism.