Today provides us with a dedicated opportunity to learn about racial discrimination and plan actions to help end anti-Black racism, and indeed all types of discrimination, in academia.
It’s also a reminder that learning, planning and positive action shouldn’t be confined to a single day. It’s not intensity that makes permanent, meaningful change in any long-lived institution. Day-to-day consistency is what built and supported discriminatory systems, and that means we have to meet this problem with the same consistency, not for one day, but for every day from now on.
What can we do to stand in solidarity with #ShutDownSTEM, #ShutDownAcademia, and #Strike4BlackLives? A few actions include: Open lines of communication for equity and racism concerns; understand our community and its needs better; provide education resources on systemic racism as part of our curriculum; use an EDI lens in all elements of our academic choices; closely examine our habitual language and forms of expression. There are far more avenues to take, but these are an excellent place to begin.
So today, take the opportunity to set aside time to have discussions with your groups, classrooms, colleagues, societies, collaborators, mentors, mentees, funders, etc about racism in STEM. Ideally this will become part of an ongoing effort in our STEM activities. As a leader, I recognize just how much I have to learn, and will be taking time to read, understand and listen to the words of anti-Black racism writers and scholars, to reflect on what I can do to reduce discrimination and bias in our workplace, and to set in motion ongoing activities to support the change we need.
As members of BME and MSL, I ask that you take time to join me in this opportunity, and understand that this represents only the beginning of our collective efforts. Building a truly equitable community will not happen overnight, but we can start today.
Peter Zandstra PhD, FRSC, PEng
Canada Research Chair in Stem Cell Engineering
Director and Professor, School of Biomedical Engineering
Director and Professor, Michael Smith Laboratories