SEISMIC Statement on White Supremacist Violence and Anti-Blackness in the United States
Dear SEISMIC members,
The recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many other Black Americans represent a painful reminder of an ongoing truth: Systemic racism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy are structural components of the United States and its institutions. Institutions of higher education participate in these structural violences; STEM education is no exception.
In solidarity with Black Americans, we join both in condemning white supremacy and in calling for an end to state-sanctioned violence that threatens Black American life, greeting protest with batons, tear gas, and rubber bullets—or worse. We join in calling for public accountability, justice, and change—and we recognize that such change includes reimagining and reforming our undergraduate classes and institutions of higher education. Believing that Black lives matter in STEM education means taking action to develop antiracist academic spaces that are safe, welcoming, and critically engaged. STEM education has, in many ways, participated in and perpetuated racist injustice. This ongoing history of anti-Blackness is one that we in SEISMIC acknowledge, and it is one we are committed to ending.
To be clear: Building equitable and inclusive campuses must begin with admitting that our universities and fields need to change. Our collaboration represents members from 10 public research universities in the United States that educate over 350,000 students each year. Universities are important hubs of innovation and knowledge, but they have also been—and continue to be—sites of exclusion, marginalization, and violence. In the midst of a pandemic that is taking lives every day, we must not forget that for over 400 years, racism and white supremacy in universities and research communities have also taken Black lives. Our universities and fields of study have long been part of this erasure of humanity and life, including supporting the transatlantic slave trade and enslavement, promoting eugenic theories and experiments, and stealing cells for personal and institutional prestige and profit, among many other atrocities in the name of discovery and knowledge.
As researchers and educators committed to increasing equity and inclusion in STEM, we must also commit to confronting and combating the racist violences that have been advanced in and through STEM. Put simply, we must actively advance an anti-racist future for STEM education. Institutionally, we affirm that SEISMIC will take concrete action to promote:
1. Antiracism in Policy
Individually and institutionally, SEISMIC members have a responsibility to promote antiracist policies across scales—from our departments to our campus, and across our 10 institutions. We commit to learning how STEM courses, including our own, participate in and perpetuate racism. We will act on this learning by implementing antiracist policies and practices—and putting pressure on others to do the same. We must do so in our classrooms, our departments, our institutions, our professional societies, and beyond.
2. Antiracism in Representation
Relatedly, we recognize the current lack of diversity in SEISMIC, and will increase the representation of people of color—and Black Americans, in particular. A collaboration that seeks to promote equity and inclusion must work to enact and embody those aims in the present—not merely work toward them in the future. We must do better, and we will. Within the collaboration, we will also use our positions of institutional privilege to honor, elevate, and amplify the contributions of Black scholars and educators, including in our invited seminar series.
3. Antiracism in Research
The project of promoting equity and inclusion in STEM cannot be colorblind, and it cannot ignore racist inequities. We will dedicate specific resources to projects that can provide data on racism and how to combat it. In our scholarship and teaching, we will actively resist explanations for educational inequalities that rely on racist narratives about student deficits. Instead, we will work to identify the structural factors and forces that manufacture inequality—and we will investigate how to counter them.
4. Antiracism in Teaching and Mentorship
We will support SEISMIC members in enacting antiracist teaching and mentorship. In our courses and departments, we will be mindful that curriculum sends messages about whose lives and experiences we think matter. As STEM educators, we are responsible for honoring and teaching students about the contributions of Black scientists and other scientists of color—and for drawing attention to the inequities that STEM has reinforced. We will also promote inclusive mentoring practices that support minoritized and marginalized students and colleagues in our fields. Initial readings and other resources to support antiracist teaching, mentorship, and general self-education are provided below.
As a collaboration and community, we will hold each other accountable.
The SEISMIC Collaboration Council
Beginning Readings, Toolkits, Syllabi, and Other Resources
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (Bryan Dewsbury and Mays Imad are organizing a virtual book club on this book and how to enact its principles in teaching. Join the book club here.)
- “Who Gets to be Afraid in America” by Ibram X. Kendi
- Decolonising Science Reading List by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
- Black Lives Matter Syllabus by Frank Leon Roberts
- Anti-Racist Resource Guide by Victoria Alexander
- Toolkit for “Just” Science by Teaching Tolerance
- Currents publications by the National Center for Institutional Diversity
- George Floyd Resource Compilation, compiled and maintained by @abjectcriticism
- Understanding Systemic Anti-Black Racism in the United States: A Reference List, maintained by Adrien Weibge
- Data 4 Black Lives, founded by Yeshimabeit Milner and Lucas Mason-Brown
- Seeing White podcast and study guide, Center for Documentary studies at Duke.
Places to Donate
- Local bail funds or a national bail fund network (e.g., National Bail Fund Network)
- Campaign Zero, a national organization committed to ending police violence
- Legal defense funds, such as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Know Your Rights Camp
- Color of Change, a national online force to create a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America