Tech

The STEM Racial Assessment has just entered its Most Crucial Phase

Don’t get me wrong – the resource phase is critical. When properly allocated, resources (especially financial) provide the infrastructure needed to deal with long-term problems. Thus, resources should not be the end of the conversation, but the beginning. Little can happen without them.

The question is, what do we do with them once we have them?

A year later George Floyd has been assassinated, phase 3 continues to grow in scope: new job titles are created, new hires are lit up in green, and job postings present an impressively transparent language about job commitments. anti-racism and diversity. But past these important advances – and I want to emphasize that they are all important – we now go into unfamiliar territory.

The definitive question for this new phase 4 is, Are we already there? What exactly should we do, and how do we know if we are making progress? Will we do a good job if we hire a number of indigenous computer scientists in the next five years? Few should doubt that this is a great sign. If enrollment of students with a self-identified disability doubles in the next two cohorts of graduate students, we should be encouraged.

Here too we must be careful and consider the lesson of Goodhart’s law: When a metric becomes the goal, it is no longer a useful metric.

If the low number of black or brown scientists indicates that an institutional culture is prejudicial or unacceptable, then target those numbers. only it is not the way to change this culture. It extends even further, if you only change the number of Black and Brown faces in the crowd, maybe you haven’t changed much.

But this is not only true. Certainly increasing the diversity in the faces in the crowd is one part of the purpose. Because the problems are so great, shock therapy that increases numbers immediately could create a critical mass. And a critical mass would at the very least make early career scientists from marginalized communities feel less alienated in their respective programs and professions. And by extension, the culture will change then.

Perhaps phase 4 should lead to a rigorous assessment of our progress. Any sophisticated initiative that aims to treat a social patient requires an equally (or more) sophisticated tool to measure whether that initiative is at all effective. Roads to nothing are paved even with the best of intentions (from phases 1 to 3).

Even our evaluative powers are useless if we do not decide what the goal really is. Even more banally: Have we, in one of these phases, examined what problem we are trying to solve? And by problem, I mean something more specific than “tackling systemic racism”.

This and all subsequent phases will succeed only if we are cleaned up with an uncomfortable truth: institutional racism is so pernicious because it lurks on the margins of society, often on roads that are difficult to diagnose and legislate. That they are difficult to diagnose does not mean that they are less significant. The opposite may be true: That racism on the margins is difficult to diagnose is precisely how it is embedded throughout our universe and power society from within.

This putrefaction is manifested in how some boot spots are received when they come out of some mouths in relation to others.

We live in what we can experience, and because we need credentials from some but not from others.

He lives on editorial committees and on thesis and promotion committees.

It tells us why students of similar talents or interests are mentored differently, because some are encouraged to pursue more challenging projects with more growth potential.

Explain why one scientist is labeled as a polymath and the other an amateur for a similar work.

He lives as professional networks are built, often in social and informal settings. (I may not like the IPA, but I could take advantage of the associated chatter after work.)

It can also live in how black teachers are treated by students who aim to inspire, or how black health workers are treated by patients who are trying to treat them.


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