Our school recently edited a program's "diversity" admissions prompt (you know the one) to explicitly ask about antiracism. It took a lot of discussion (and much hesitation from white faculty and staff), but it was approved by the steering committee. Now, there's a department that wants to give applicants the option of answering the antiracism/diversity question or one about climate change.
Brace yourself for a rant.
This move on the part of the department says more about the white faculty discomfort with the topic than it does applicants. Rather, faculty seem to be seeking confirmation (let me introduce you to our old friend, confirmation bias) in applicants that may even remotely resemble having trouble, or choosing to sidestep, a direct question about antiracism. It says we are looking to prioritize white comfort over doing the more difficult work of being actively antiracist.
In so staunchly defending status quo, one whose foundation is built on white supremacy, we are employing inaction as a racist tactic - which by definition is one that maintains systems of oppression aka backpedaling now is an actively racist action. Talking about climate change does not get at the heart of systems of oppression. You can't continue to treat the area around an infected wound and expect the wound to heal.
To shy away from (and doing something about) racism is to cast a vote for the maintenance of existing racist structures. To say that an applicant's refusal to answer a question about antiracism (a racist deployment of silence as protective of oppression) is permissible/not a deal breaker is tantamount to saying that you are more interested is protecting the façade of racial ignorance than in having a difficult conversation. When silence becomes an effective exist strategy to avoid the pressure point of naming and discussing racism, the entire enterprise of cultural and systems change toward equity is weakened. Yes, when you put equity against longstanding systems of oppression, equity is fragile enough that your refusal to engage in conversation about it can't stand up to the staunch refusal of some academics to change.
So stop it. Deal with the fact that talking about racism is just a thing now. And let us live.
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