Dear Microbiology Students, Postdocs, Faculty, Instructors, and Staff,
We write to you during this difficult time because we feel that now, more than ever before, we need to have an earnest conversation about justice and equity. Silence itself is a weapon that continues to discriminate against and disenfranchise people of color, and in particular, Black Americans. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Tony McDade, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Samuel Dubose, Philando Castile, Walter Scott, Terrence Crutcher, and more, added to our nation’s history of overt and covert injustice and inequality, are despicable and unacceptable. The current epidemic is, at the same time, having devastating effects on Black Americans, Hispanic and Latino communities, low-income families and the elderly, with disproportionate rates of hospitalization and death during the COVID-19 pandemic [CDC]. The rhetoric of prominent political figures has compounded these injuries by promoting distrust and disunity at a time when we must all come together to defend and uplift the vulnerable. Our community cannot and will not stand for these injustices. We are grateful for the messages from Dean Haggerty and President Ray, and for the “It’s time to show up” conversation led by the Examining White Identity team. We wanted to share more about how we view the Department of Microbiology’s roles and responsibilities in calling out and dismantling racism and unconscious bias, fostering inclusion and equity, building and supporting our community now and in the future, and asserting that BLACK LIVES MATTER.
As a predominantly white institution and department in a small, quiet, liberal-leaning town, it is easy to feel outside of the national conversation about equity and race. We believe nothing could be further from the truth - now is the time for us to examine our own beliefs, our practices, and our privilege. As individuals and as a community we must grapple with our resistance to having these conversations, choosing to carry them out in a spirit of good faith and constructiveness. We must fight the urge to retreat to safety, or to respond with anger or defensiveness. Above all, we must make every effort, right now, to support those in our community that are most impacted by the overlapping tragedies occurring in our country. This must be the moment in which we, as a community, reject the structural inequity that leads to the disparate impact of COVID-19, to the wealth gap, to the leaky scientific pipeline, and to the gross disparity in use of police violence.
While it is easy to say we want to make change, we must also show that these are not empty placating words. Thus, along with fostering these broader conversations, we propose a number of concrete actions to be taken now within our department. We aim to find ways to assist our community in expanding our teaching and research programs to incorporate diverse perspectives, disrupt the narrative about what STEM educators look like, and highlight the contributions of people of color to the field of microbiology and other STEM disciplines.
- We are compiling resources and will post them to our website. These resources can provide direct information where all members of our community can find information about issues regarding the current social and political upheaval (e.g., mental and physical health access, student and faculty group activities) and impacts of COVID-19 (e.g., housing and food insecurity, student employment and financial assistance programs). We will also include resources for educators on topics such as incorporating diverse perspectives into course development, recognizing bias and white privilege, and understanding and confronting the history of structural racism and injustice in America and in STEM fields. Further, we will promote organizations supporting diversity in STEM across all levels of the department, from undergraduate students to faculty and staff, including STEM-specific scholarship opportunities for underrepresented minority students (URM.) We welcome suggestions from the community for additional resources to add.
- We recommend that the department stock the Pernot library with books investigating equity, justice, inclusion, and the voices of underrepresented members of our discipline, which will be available to borrow (hopefully electronically as well). We will work with the department to put together a list of materials to include.
- We will continue to stock the Pernot library with books investigating equity, justice, inclusion, and the voice of underrepresented members of our discipline, which are available to borrow. We welcome suggestions from the department for books to add to the collection.
- We call on teaching and research faculty to offer compassion and grace to your students and trainees, more than ever before. And we urge everyone in our community to reach out, to listen, and to strive to understand each other. One mechanism we aim to help in this regard is to provide an anonymous mechanism to reach out to us with suggestions or concerns that you are having during this trying time - you will find an anonymous contact form on our website.
We encourage everyone to take some time to browse through the Valley Library’s compiled list of books and resources to get started on Examining White Identity, Reading Racial Justice, and Addressing Racism in STEM Disciplines. Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) also has a thorough collection of educational and toolkit resources here. This document contains an extensive list of resources and starting points for learning about anti-racism. Further resources will be collected and organized on our website.
The Microbiology Core Values Committee