Written for The Argo by Moujnir Lewis
On February 18, Stockton University’s Leadership Lunch program kicked off with “Diversity Debrief: America’s Strange Relationship with Identity,” a webinar designed to inform students about American history and the role it plays in social justice issues.
Founder of SCG (Staten Consulting Group) Diversity Consulting Daedra Staten, Esq. led the webinar and emphasized the importance of history, language, law, and implicit bias on people’s daily lives.
Staten specified that to understand race one must comprehend equity, which she defined as the “structural, systemic, and institutional fairness and justice that takes historical and ongoing oppression, subordination, racism, and marginalization into account.”
Staten said the inequity of American law is evident in the Landmark Cases that have defined the country. Dred Scott v. Sandford, which ruled that both free and enslaved African Americans were not citizens of the United States and therefore could not sue in Federal Courts, is a prime example. By examining the ruling of Dred Scott v. Sandford and others like it, people can see how the language of the law establishes social norms.
Many see the start of slavery in the United States as an occurrence of the 17th century onward, but Staten said that the first slaves to actually land in the U.S. arrived in 1526. One hundred slaves were brought by Spanish explorers to what would later become the 13 colonies and eventually the U.S. as we know it today, but their story is rarely explored.
This is because all 100 of those slaves disappeared, and no one knows what happened to them. Research such as the 1619 Project and other resources are enabling people to become more knowledgeable about the historical context of race and racism, Staten said.
In the middle of the webinar, Staten showcased the song “This is America” by Childish Gambino. The popular hit opens up with a dance that is a direct commentary on the negative stereotypes associated with black people during the Jim Crow Era. Staten believes this is an example of how popular media actively informs the public of history, whether they realize it or not.
Staten also touched on the current pandemic and how it has highlighted inequities and implicit bias within the U.S.
“Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased” by roughly 900% since the start of the pandemic, said Staten. According to her, this increase comes at a time when the nationwide average of hate crimes is down. Staten also believes that this anti-Asian sentiment is a result of implicit biases and prominent politicians referring to COVID-19 as the “China Virus,” which enforced negative stereotypes.
Some countermeasures that Staten recommended for fighting implicit biases are to be humble, be mindful, be internally motivated, and keep count. By starting with ourselves, Staten hopes that everyone can become aware of their own biases and work to move past them.
To learn more about Staten’s recommended resources on diversity, law, stereotypes and implicit bias, please visit the links below:
Implicit Association Test by Harvard University’s Research Team
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander