The Anti-Racism Collaborative (ARC) sponsored an online event Tuesday afternoon focused on sharing anti-racism research and starting conversation on how communities can participate.
The event was part of the Provost’s anti-racism initiative, which launched in 2020 as a part of a University-wide shift to target deep-rooted racial inequities. The event highlighted five panelists who shared their community-centered approaches to creating systemic and multigenerational change.
The event opened with remarks from University Provost Susan Collins, who said that the Provost’s office has worked with ARC to identify anti-racist research projects to share with the student body to create positive change on campus.
“Racism has permeated our society,” Collins said. “As scholars, we understand the work that goes into addressing racism. For decades, U-M has celebrated race, identity, and the impact on people’s lives. We have even supported 21 graduate students by giving them grants to pursue their own research towards anti-racism.”
Celeste Watkins-Hayes, professor of public policy, began the talk with discussion about her policy-centered research on anti-racism, particularly focusing on women with HIV/AIDS.
“It’s really wonderful to see higher-ed institutions taking up anti-racism on the macro level … I want to work to help people get resources, especially when they are at an increased vulnerability,” Watkins-Hayes said.
Event moderator Tabbye Chavous, National Center for Institutional Diversity event director, said anti-racism work depends on individual accountability. Chavous also contributed to the conversation by discussing how police violence perpetuates racism.
“Police violence has sparked racial reckonings,” Chavous said. “There are different lenses of what anti-racism means in terms of individual responsibility. What does engaging in anti-racism research mean to you?”
Charles HF Davis III, assistant professor of Higher Education, provided his take on racism and vulnerability, noting the complex and long-held system that upholds racist norms.
“History shows us that racism isn’t new,” Davis said. “It’s important to ask what are we against, what are we for and to what end will we go to get it. Racism is a structure of group vulnerability, we have to think of anti-racism as multifaceted. It is made up of interpersonal interactions but (is) also systemically and structurally perpetuated.”
Deborah Rivas-Drake, professor of Psychology and Education, continued Davis’s notes on structural racism, adding that educating the younger generation is important to combat the systematic racism present in society.
“We’re asking parents and educators to describe what racial justice means to them,” Rivas-Drake said. “Many parents don’t know how to act actively (be) anti-racist and they want to do better. They want to do it with their kids because the work is multigenerational. We are likely to perpetuate the same systems, because ultimately anti-racism is cultivated.”
When asked if there is a universally agreed upon definition of anti-racism, Lopez answered by sharing his experience with immigration and deportation work. He said his experience on police ride-alongs helped him understand what it meant to be anti-racist.
“During these ride-alongs, I was surprised that they let me come with them because I was trying to uncover unfair law enforcement tactics,” Lopez said. “But the police said that they were happy to show a citizen how they do their job, because they didn’t even think that unfair tactics would be involved.”
Melissa Borja, assistant professor of American Culture, presented an overview of her research about racism towards Asians during the pandemic and noted the parallels between her perspective on society as an Asian American woman.
“One thing my team focused on was ‘Anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 Pandemic,’” Borja said. “We looked at anti-Asian news media during the pandemic, how Asian Americans are responding to it, and even contributed to ‘Stop AAPI Hate.’ What we are doing is a series of case studies where we are going to study different locations and address the problem as it is locally expressed. Many studies find that anti-Asian racism exists, but our research hones in on the receiving end and how Asian Americans react to racism.”
Borja also added the importance of mentorship and research in anti-racist efforts. She discussed her own research, and how it can help prevent racism in the future.
“I believe that mentorship has the ability to transform lives,” Borja said. “There are currently 15-20 undergraduate students on my research team and it has been the greatest joy raising up the next generation of scholars who care. If you want to do your part, try to do research and help those contributing to anti-racist research.”
Rivas-Drake agreed with Borja’s comment and stressed that everybody can play a role in combating racism.
“You have to ask how you can be an active facilitator of anti-racism,” Rivas-Drake said. “This type of work and research takes a long time, but it all starts with each person and each individual action we take to stop racism.”
Daily Staff Reporter Sejal Patil can be reached at email@example.com.