“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”
— Ijeoma Oluo, author of So you want to talk about Race (2018)
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) and Anti-racism
How do I advance my goal of creating a more just and effective learning space for all my students? Showing
my genuine commitment to DEI and anti-racism requires “becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable” feeling
of this topic. I approach this discomfort from three perspectives: personal, intellectual, and practical. Through
self-reflectivity, intellectual curiosity, and practical implementation, I am committed to fostering an inclusive
learning environment, both in the classroom and the field.
My commitment to DEI is evident in my internal discourse, as well as the steps I take in the classroom and in the field. It is by no means a static goal, but rather, a dynamic process that demands humility and persistence on my part. It is not enough to intellectually understand concepts around racism. Self-reflectivity is imperative so we may hold ourselves accountable and implement inclusive behavior. Furthermore, I have a responsibility as a faculty member to continuously reflect on my positionality alongside my teaching. Our positionality informs each of our stories. Every student has a story and they should feel safe to explore it in my classroom.
What do I understand about DEI and what am I doing to further my knowledge about this topic? As a biology professor, I have the privilege of choosing when and when not to engage in racial issues (1). However, I continually challenge myself to find and articulate interactions between science and DEI. By engaging in professional development focused on DEI and reading text outside of my scientific discipline, I learn new pedagogical tools I can use to promote inclusion in the classroom. Having the curiosity and humility to acknowledge links between biology and social issues also motivates me to expand the focus of my teaching. I do not limit the material to biology as recognized by western science.
Practical DEI learning opportunities I foster in the classroom and field include:
Diversifying readings including those of Indigenous Scholars
Incorporating Indigenous Knowledge (IK), Traditional Phenological Knowledge (TPK), and adaptive resource management strategies into class assignments and discussions
Modeling inclusive classroom practices including gender pronouns and name pronunciation
Highlighting the interdisciplinary connections and real-world applications of plant biology, biodiversity, and socio-economic justice
Validating student socio-emotional wellbeing
Modeling inclusive research practices in the field
(1) Kishimoto, K. 2018. Anti-racist pedagogy: from faculty’s self-reflection to organizing within and beyond the classroom. Race Ethnicity and Education 21(4): 540-554.