Resources for antiracism
Hi all! This page is a work in progress, but serves as a central hub to be transparent about how we as graduate students are working to dismantle white supremacy in academia and foster an inclusive, antiracist community. We know we still have a lot to do and would love to partner with you if you have ideas or organizations for us to plug into.
We believe work needs to be done in fostering an inclusive community for folks who have been historically marginalized for reasons excluding race, but do not want to pat ourselves on the back for “diversifying our student community” without a concentrated effort on ensuring BIPOC feel included and able to be their genuine selves. Therefore, a large focus on this page pertains to antiracism.
Why does this page exist?
White privilege is interwoven into the DNA of academia. Costs of attending universities are rising as state funding is decreasing, which disproportionately excludes poor folks– many of which are non-white folks in large part due to the inability to accumulate generational wealth thanks to slavery and the oppression that has remained long after its formal abolition. The process of having to apply and be accepted allows gatekeepers to maintain our power, making inclusion of oppressed folks even more difficult. The concept of “meritocracy” in the American university assumes that applications are coming from folks on equal playing ground. See this paper from Abeba Birhane and Olivia Guest for their wisdom on decolonizing computational sciences.
Beyond that, Black and brown folks are being disproportionately killed by law enforcement officers. As technologists, our field is playing an increasing role in this marginalization. As humans, Black lives matter. Black lives are valuable. It’s as simple as that.
See this article for more information on the history of whiteness in academia.
Actions Taken since June 1 (last updated October 7, 2020)
We have started taking action to dismantle white supremacy in our department in a few ways, though this list is both incomplete and insufficient.
- The Computer Science department has named Claire Monteleoni as our new Associate Chair of Inclusive Excellence.
- Our weekly tea time has opened up this semester for students to have a spot to share about their culture. Contact James Watson if you are interesting in sharing.
- Our graduate students started meeting biweekly, learning how to be antiracist and planning/coordinating how to take action. Faculty are also invited to these meetings, but they have been led by graduate student Christine Chang, and supported by the CS Graduate Student Association.
- Connecting with potential students at the NSBE National Leadership Conference.
- We created this page to increase our transparency and accountability. If you notice that we are not following up on the items in progress below, hold us accountable!
- We have launched a pilot program to provide prospective PhD students with an initial round of feedback on their applications.
Items in progress (last updated October 7, 2020)
- Adding resources and demographic data on the CS department website; the goal here is to increase transparency. We know Boulder is a predominantly white city, and want to be honest with that reality before people move here.
- Collecting data from folks in our department to learn the state of the culture and extract best practices to support our BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students.
- A CSGSA bylaw amendment to create an internal Antiracism and Inclusion chair.
This list is very incomplete; please send additional resources our way.
University of Colorado
Message from CSGSA to CU Boulder CS Graduate Students (sent via Slack June 1, 2020)
We just sent out an email about tea time this week and realized GSA has not been very vocal on here about the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, James Scurlock, and way too many others.
First of all, to our Black students, I am sorry. There are no words as trauma is heightened through some of the most recent murders being brought to our collective attention; my heart just aches for you who are trying to bust through a glass ceiling in science (e.g. only ~1.3% of computing faculty are African American according to the CRA.) I hope that you all are giving yourselves space to mourn as you need and want to. Science will be there later, and that deadline really isn’t that important. It’s okay to not be working right now. I hope that our graduate student community is a place for everyone to feel safe, but we know that has not always been true. If anyone needs help getting connected to CAPS or accessing other campus resources, I personally am happy to do my best to connect you to the resources you might need and advocate to the department on your behalf.
For non-Black allies, here is a reference on anti-racism that I have recently seen circulating that has resources for education on race if you are wondering what are some things you can do. As CS students, we would also encourage you to consider the following practices:
- Collaborate with and cite Black scientists. If you can’t find papers in your field by Black scientists, look harder.
- If you still can’t find papers by Black scientists, take a second (or longer) to reflect on how we’re part of a (collective) institution that excludes so many.
- If you work with social data, consider how the data you collect and publish, as well as your research, might affect the humanness of others- specifically the oppressed. Consider adding datasheets to your research, at the very least, as a personal exercise to consider the potential implications of your work.
- Read books like “Race after Technology” by Ruha Benjamin, “Automating Inequality” by Virginia Eubanks, and “Algorithms of Oppression” by Safiya Umoja Noble.
I’ll leave you with a reminder that technology is not neutral, and that our biases are encoded in everything we do. I know my words are insufficient, but I hope the sentiment comes across here and that we can collectively learn to dismantle the white supremacy built into academia and better support and include our historically oppressed students; particularly our Black friends, collaborators, classmates, and most importantly, humans.
Jessie Finocchiaro, CSGSA Chair 2020
See also the official message from our department.