GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 243-5
Presentation Time: 2:35 PM


BRADFORD, Christine, Geology, Lone Star College - Tomball, 30555 Tomball Parkway, Tomball, TX 77375

Until I began my journey into JEDI work (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion), I moved through the world without ever noticing structural racism. I didn’t need to. As a White person in the United States, the various systems of our society generally worked well from my perspective. I didn’t see White; I only saw non-White. In the early years of my JEDI work, I knew it was important to increase diversity within the geosciences. Demographic data supported the need for diversity and the value of a diverse workforce was well established. Projects that include diverse voices produce outcomes that are superior to those produced by homogenous groups. Therefore, I knew that recruiting, maintaining, and promoting a diverse workforce wasn’t just a “nice thing to do.” The problems of the 21st century need a workforce with a variety of viewpoints to develop solutions that do not create new problems in the attempt to solve old problems.

Until I understood how barriers and points of friction that were erected in the past affected people today, I could not truly understand why I needed to become a strong and vocal agent for change within my institution. Making the invisible throughlines of structural racism visible across systems enabled me to have courageous conversations. I was prepared to push back when I encountered resistance to JEDI work. I could see why policies and practices that address systemic inequities must be developed and sustained. Viewing current problems through the lens of history clarifies and focuses the need for change and for the development of equitable solutions to historical inequities. This historically based rational enables institutions to leverage their workforce to create a work environment in which everyone feels that they belong, they are heard, and that their work is valued. Making the invisible, visible allowed me to see the undertow of structural racism that has stymied the geoscience diversification efforts begun in earnest 50 years ago. Seeing White dismantles the power structures that allow racism to flourish.