Racism, Data, and IASSIST

By IASSIST | September 13, 2020

Since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, race and racism have been in the headlines around the globe. The Black Lives Matter movement may have been born out of a uniquely American situation but the wrongs against which it protests exist in other parts of the world. If we learn nothing else from the current global focus on racism and its historical precedents, we learn that taking comfort in being ‘not racist’ is insufficient, bordering on complacent. In the face of emboldened white supremacy in the US and other regions, it’s time to become clearly anti-racist.

For many of IASSIST’s 400 or so members, an organizational statement about racism may seem overdue. Over the summer, a traditional period of rest for IASSIST’s all-volunteer crew, discussions have been taking place about what meaningful steps we might take to understand and communicate an anti-racist commitment, and to make sure that our words can be matched with deeds.

Understanding the depth of the problem, our part in it as individuals and as a collective, and what meaningful steps we might take to do what needs to be done takes time. We recognize that data can be used to uphold and justify bias. We understand that the use of data and the processes by which they are collected, defined, and presented can further causes that are the antithesis of equitable and inclusive. Even when that is not the intent, data can contribute to the further entrenchment of systemic racism. Data can also be a powerful tool for anti-racists to begin to redress the balance. Much is at stake and there is much for us to learn.

To better serve our professional community and make positive steps toward the goal of becoming an anti-racist organisation, the IASSIST leadership pledges to work with the IASSIST community to do the following:

  • Revisit conference code of conduct in light of Black Lives Matter awareness and communication in an ongoing virtual environment (not just events)
  • Create a professional ethics statement for the IASSIST community
  • Create and compile useful resources to host on the website
  • Membership Committee to meet to discuss anti-racism in the regions and consider any follow-on actions
  • Publications Committee to publish a special issue in IQ
  • Health Data Interest Group to consider a deliverable around Coronavirus and inequality
  • Professional Development Committee to hold one or more webinars for members
  • IASSIST Fellows to consider changes to their program to redress systemic racism
  • Admin Committee / Executive Committee to consider income structures in light of anti-racism commitment