The United States is in the midst of a long-overdue reckoning with systemic racial inequality. To move the needle on this issue, each of us needs to take it upon ourselves to understand structural racism, and — just as importantly — take action to dismantle the systems that keep it in place. On October 21, 2020, the Wellesley Centers for Women hosted Advancing Racial Justice Through Research and Action, a virtual Social Change Dialogue, to explore this important topic.

“Racism is reinforced by individuals. It's a system, it's a force, but we as individuals reinforce that system, and we can dismantle it,” said Research Scientist LaShawnda Lindsay, Ph.D., during the #WellesleyVotes program moderated by Executive Director Layli Maparyan, Ph.D., which also included SEED Co-Director Gail Cruise-Roberson, Associate Research Scientist Lisette DeSouza, Ph.D., and Open Circle Director Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, M.A., CAGS.

Panelists opened the program with a discussion on the importance of bringing conversations about race and racial justice into formal and informal learning environments. Specifically, Cruise-Roberson and Drummond-Forrester stressed the need for inclusive classroom curricula and highlighted the role educators play in shaping their students’ experiences.

“You could be the best math teacher there is,” said Drummond-Forrester. “But if children do not feel that you are taking the time to truly get to know who they are, understand their experiences, understand them as a whole human being, they can choose not to learn from you.”

Throughout the program, panelists discussed the ways they advance racial justice through their research and action work at WCW. Cruise-Roberson shared examples from the National SEED Project, which partners with schools, organizations, and communities to drive personal, organizational, and societal change towards social justice. Dr. Lindsay shared examples from Black Girls Create, a culturally responsive, informal STEM learning program, and Drummond-Forrester shared examples from the social and emotional learning program Open Circle. Dr. DeSouza shared examples from her youth development-focused research with the National Institute on Out-of-School Time.

Dr. DeSouza and Dr. Lindsay also spoke to the importance of doing research with feminist, womanist, and intersectional lenses that can inform social change movements.

“Part of this ongoing process is to get to a place where we're using this racial justice lens at every part of the research process so we can ask the questions, choose methods, and then share our findings in a way that centers racial justice from start to end,” said DeSouza.

Panelists also shared advice for those wondering how they can take steps to advance racial justice in their own lives and communities. They encouraged participants to engage in self-reflection and self-awareness, to practice vulnerability, and to seek out media that offer “windows” into the experiences of people different from themselves.

“Being able to understand that maybe your point of view isn't the universal point of view is the first step, I think,” said Cruise-Roberson. “It starts with the self.”

Recommended Reading

Panelists recommended the following books for those studying education:

October 28, 2020

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