Prof: 'Brown and Black' research perspectives 'supersede' those of Whites

In reference to White researchers, one of the speakers argued that the perspectives of researchers from “Black and Brown communities...supersede their perspectives."

A diversity, equity, and inclusion event hosted by the University of Michigan criticized engineering as a field dominated by “whiteness and maleness.”

During the event, speakers argued that White researchers benefit greatly at the expense of their peers of color due to the inherent biases present within the field of engineering.

The University of Michigan’s College of Engineering hosted a webinar titled “Examining the Hard Truths of Whiteness and Maleness in Engineering Education," in which one guest speaker argued that the perspectives of "Black and Brown" researchers "supersede" those of their White peers.

The speakers for the September event were Purdue University Assistant Professor in Curriculum Studies Stephanie Masta and Purdue Associate Professor of Engineering Education Alice Pawley. During the webinar, they cited preliminary findings from their current joint-research project “I-MATTER” as representative of they say is the widespread lack of inclusivity in the field of engineering.

“It’s this sort of taxonomy of things that drive diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, but while on their face they seem fair, we’re arguing that they’re still rooted in colonialism, whiteness, and maleness,” Pawley said. When elaborating on her research, Pawley commented that it provides a way for “how we should think about racism, sexism,” saying “we could add in ableism and homophobia and xenophobia, how it’s baked into the culture of engineering.”

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Masta dedicated much of her time to discuss how she says White researchers unfairly benefit from the work of their peers of color, and how White people are supposedly rewarded for doing work that has already been done by others. 

“White researchers, in particular, will present on marginalized communities without acknowledging that that work has already been done,” said Masta. Masta jokingly referred to this as “Columbusing,” which she defines as “when you discover something that has already existed.”

The second half of the event focused on how White researchers can help combat these issues. 

“Our perspectives, as members of Brown and Black communities, are considered, well they supersede their perspectives,” said Mast, referring to the perspectives of White researchers. “We have been moved to the back, and what White researchers need to do is they need to move themselves to the back and push the Brown and Black folks to the front,” Masta added.. 

Similarly, Pawley stated that “not every social justice or diversity initiative needs to have a White person involved in the leadership.”

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Robin Fowler, the College of Engineering’s official coordinator for such seminars, declined Campus Reform’s request for comment. 

Masta and Pawley did not respond to requests for comment from Campus Reform in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter:@Margaret_Beste