The Brandeis Joint Biology/Neuroscience (Bio/Neuro) Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee recently organized two workshops titled, “Brandeis DEI Workshop Series for Science Labs: Understanding Implicit Bias, Microaggressions and Cultural Awareness.” The workshops are led by Dr. Charles Chip Mc Neal, Director of DEI Education and Learning Initiatives at Brandeis. The overarching goal of the two workshops was to bring attention to potential issues in STEM workspaces and discuss how to make research environments more accommodating, inclusive and enriching.
According to an email from Aishwariya Iyengar, a member of the Bio/Neuro DEI committee, the committee has been established for about two years. This workshop series was being held by the request of graduate students in the Molecular and Cellular Biology and Neuroscience programs. Additionally, the workshops sought to include faculty members, staff and postdoctoral students who are frequently left out of more targeted workshops.
This past Tuesday was the first workshop of the two-part series. Mc Neal noted that while the first step to mitigating workplace issues was to bring awareness to the problems, the solution is dependent on active engagement of individuals in the scientific community at Brandeis. “Nothing that I want to talk to you about is bigger than you sitting in this room, and about changing the hearts and minds of people,” he said.
Furthermore, the workshop included a discussion about the meaning and difference between the words bias, prejudice and racism. Mc Neal explained that bias is a strong preference for one thing over another, prejudice a strong negative association with something and racism is the feeling of prejudice with the power to demean another group of people on the basis of race.
Additionally, Mc Neal emphasized the importance of anti-racism and the intersectionality of race with other personal identities. Mc Neal shared the importance of understanding the different levels of racism in order to be involved in opposing racism, namely internalized, interpersonal, institutional and systemic. “Anti-racism is not just about being a good person but being anti-racist is a condition. It is an action, a behavior and a disposition,” Mc Neal explained. In other words, the act of anti-racism requires an active, daily commitment to mitigating racist micro- and macro-aggressions.
The workshop included audience participation where members of the Brandeis community were able to ask questions about the topics, share their experience with the concept of race and share personal stories about their experiences with workplace microaggressions.
Mc Neal invited the audience to “imagine if everyone rose and spoke up about injustice in this country.” In the second lecture happening on Friday, Sept. 8, Mc Neal will further dissect the topics of racism, microaggressions, cultural intelligence and inclusivity.