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Black in Academia

February 2021

The academic experience is inherently inequitable. Structural factors driven by White-centric ideals and principles lead to a fundamentally different Black experience in academia, including opportunities for advancement, mental health difficulties, and available resources.


Allyship begins with education about these inequities, followed by action to dismantle them. Academia should be a place where people of all identities can thrive, but it won't become so without effort and engagement from those in a position of privilege.


This is a space for Black academics to share their experiences and for others to listen.

In this month’s module, we will be highlighting the Black experience in academic settings, including historical context, community and well-being, information for allies, and resources for academic development.


We hope that you continue engaging with this content beyond the end of the module.

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Black Academic Trajectories: Facts and Figures

February 7 – 13, 2021

There are many disparities that Black academics face when it comes to higher education. Unfortunately, these disparities often start much earlier than graduate school and persist into professorship.


Starting from K-12 education, Black students are less likely to have access to college ready courses. In addition, Black students disproportionately face disciplinary action and have less time in the classroom. Furthermore, schools with a high Black student demographic tend to have less resources for students. 


The 6-year graduation rate for full-time undergraduate students receiving a bachelor's degree, was at 40% for Black students. This is significantly lower than the 6-year graduation rate for White students which is at 64%. Of those awarded bachelor degrees, 11% of graduates are Black. In contrast, of those awarded Bachelor degrees, 65% are White.


In 2015, the number of Black doctorate recipients was 2,781, while the total number of doctorate recipients was 55,006. Black PhD recipients made up just over 5% of the total number of PhD recipients. 


In 2018, out of full time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, 6% were Black (3% Black women, 3% Black mean). In comparison, 14% of undergraduates are Black, more than double the percentage of Black faculty members.


While seeking tenure and promotion, Black faculty and staff members are often asked to carry greater service burdens than their White colleagues. This is known as “invisible labor” and often does not count for the tenure process.


  • “K-12 Disparity Facts and Statistics” United Negro College Fund 

  • “Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2018” US Dept. of Education 

  •  National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates.

  •  Percentage distribution of full-time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity and sex: Fall 2018. National Center for Education Statistics. 

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Black Community and Mental Health

February 14 – 20, 2021

Mental health difficulties are highly prevalent among graduate students. Experiences such as systemic and daily racism, unpaid DEI efforts, feelings of isolation, and mental health stigma may exacerbate mental health difficulties among Black students.

While the experience of being Black not only varies across the globe, but also within continents, countries and states, there are numerous shared cultural factors that take part in affecting mental health. Significantly, the discrimination and inequality that are associated with systemic racism can take a large toll on one’s well-being. In the United States, for example, Black adults are more likely than white adults to report persistent emotional distress, and those living below the poverty line are more than twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above it.

Despite their significant needs for care, members of the Black community often face additional challenges accessing the help and treatment they need. Only one in three Black adults in the U.S. who need mental health care actually receive it. Barriers to mental health care include: socioeconomic disparities, stigma, provider bias and inequality of care. How can we work to break down these barriers which are largely created and perpetuated by systemic racism? What changes, big and small, need to be make for Black people to receive the care they deserve and need?

Black people are also often more misdiagnosed for certain mental illnesses than White people who present with the same symptoms. For example, Black people are more often diagnosed with schizophrenia and less often diagnosed with mood disorders compared to others with the same symptoms. Further, they are offered medication or therapy at lower rates than the general population. Why do you think these differences might exist? How do these differences coincide with systemic racism?

If you or someone you know could use more support seeking help, click on the buttons below to check out these resources:



Black Men Heal

Black in Mental Health






Black Girls



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How to be an Effective Ally

February 21 – 27, 2021

Wondering how you can support your Black classmates and colleagues? See below to learn more about allyship and how you can work to dismantle racial inequities in your words and actions.

What is an Ally?

Oppression indicates a systemic and pervasive inequity in treatment, resources, and opportunities that benefits those with privilege. Privilege reflects an advantage that is provided to a select group of people based on certain arbitrary and unearned characteristics. An ally is a person with some form of privilege who takes time to educate themselves on racial inequities and injustices, advocates for those disadvantaged by oppression, and makes personal sacrifices to make room for and elevate others with less privilege.

Common excuses that get in the way of allyship

There are a number of excuses commonly given to justify inaction. The ability to employ these excuses represents a form of privilege, as individuals without such privilege don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye. White fragility, or sensitivity when confronted about racism, can contribute to a defensive attitude rather than willingness to learn and grow. Some common excuses may include: 

“I don’t have the time to dedicate to this.” 

“It’s ok if I don’t take action because someone else will.”

“I have a Black friend, so I can’t be racist.”

“I don’t know enough about this to participate.”

“I’m worried about the repercussions of speaking out.”

“That person isn’t racist, they were just joking around.”

How to be an effective ally

The first step in becoming an effective ally is to educate yourself on inequities and injustices that perpetuate racism and systemic oppression. This will help you to better recognize the kinds of transgressions that your privilege previously obscured. However, recognizing racism, including microaggressions, is not enough -- allyship requires calling out these behaviors. The DEAR MAN skill can help with this. Be sure to Describe the situation, Express your educated perspective on the situation, Assert the reasons the behavior was wrong, and Reinforce the person when they try to improve. While doing this, try to stay Mindful of your goal by not letting other biases interfere, Appear confident to convey the strength of your position, and be willing to Negotiate by recognizing that the other person may need to take smaller steps rather than a leap into allyship. Finally, reflect upon your own actions to make sure they are impactful (stepping down from a leadership role to diversify leadership) rather than performative (participating in a social media trend).

Resources to educate yourself and support your Black colleagues

Endless resources exist to set you on track toward allyship, including books, podcasts, films, blogs, social media, and more. Importantly, utilizing these resources is just one part of allyship -- it is necessary to also take continual and impactful action. Some books include: How to be an Antiracist, White Fragility, The Fire Next Time, The New Jim Crow, Between the World and Me, and more. Some podcasts include: 1619, From Woke to Work, Code Switch, Silence is Not an Option, Intersectionality Matters!, Combing the Roots, and more. Some social media accounts include: @antiracismdaily (Instagram), @privottoprog (Instagram and Twitter), Black in “X” (Twitter), @everydayracism_ (Instagram), @blackwomenphds (Instagram), @blackphdstudents (Instagram), @blackgirlsgrad (Twitter), @blkgirlculture (Twitter), and more.
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