By: Sonja Brankovic
Compared to the national average, Georgia Tech is considered an ethnically and geographically diverse school. We have a Center for Student Diversity & Inclusion and several initiatives aimed at helping women and underrepresented populations gain admittance, succeed in, and graduate from the institute.
But just southwest of George Tech, a top-tier research institution, lie English Avenue and Vine City, some of the poorest (and historically black) neighborhoods in Atlanta. Atlanta itself is considered a mecca for civil rights, but on May 30th two black college students were forced from their vehicle by APD officers and tasered.
We are at a time in our lives where we have the opportunity and privilege to study the world and learn how to help fix its problems—and that doesn’t just mean engineering problems. It means educating ourselves and using our voices as the majority to amplify the voices of the minority. Further, we must take responsibility for this self-education ourselves. Over the past week, there have been many lists circulating around social media on how to do this; below are a few recommendations tailored to students:
1. Listen to black voices at Georgia Tech
This includes organizations like the African American Student Union, GT’s National Society of Black Engineers chapter, and the Black Graduate Students Association (see list here of orgs serving underrepresented groups), but it also means checking in on your friends and classmates. Don’t approach conversations with black friends/colleagues with the mindset that they should give you resources or tell you what to do; it’s not on them for you to be educated about racial issues.
2. Be an active participant in GT student associations and, more broadly, as a citizen with the power to vote
Those of us who have the power to vote should exercise that right whenever the opportunity comes—that includes representatives of Congress and the President, but also local government and student government. Georgia Tech has both undergraduate and graduate Student Government Associations (SGA) that influence the establishment and running of boards, councils, and committees that make decisions for the student body.
3. Diversify your social media feed
Intentionally listen to non-white voices on social media. Here are just a few Instagram accounts run by influential black women who speak about their own experiences in school and/or causes for which they advocate:
- blkingradschool – she posts stories and resources/study tips for grad students
- shetoostem – she talks about black STEM experiences, features black graduates, and also hosts a podcast
- theresearchher – Dr. Elissia Franklin is a PhD chemist, podcast host, and research advocate
- genesisbutler_ – account of Genesis Butler, a 13-year old vegan advocate who runs her own nonprofit organization
- See longer/alternate black influencers to follow in this list from Scientific American and in these highlights from NBC correspondent Antonia Hylton
4. Educate yourself through books and podcasts
- White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo: this New York Times bestseller explores why white people are at a loss to effectively respond to racial discrimination, and how we can improve our own capacity for these situations
- How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: also a New York Times bestseller, this book discusses how not being a racist is just not enough; we have to help undo racism
- Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge: based on a blog post by the author in 2014, this Man Booker Prize-winning book explores white people’s blindness to structural racism
- See a longer list of books here
- Code Switch from NPR: a weekly race and culture podcast that began in 2013; they also have a blog
- 1619 from the New York Times, a storytelling series on how slavery transformed America
- See a longer list of podcasts here
5. Support black businesses in Atlanta
Several black-owned businesses (restaurants specifically) near Georgia Tech include:
- Urban Grind, a coffeehouse on Marietta street just west of campus
- Slim and Husky’s Pizza Beeria, an artisan pizza shop that uses locally sourced ingredients
- Rock Steady, a Caribbean restaurant/bar that recently opened near Urban Grind on Marietta street
- Atlanta Breakfast Club, a Southern-style breakfast place in Midtown
- Check out Blacklanta LLC for a huge directory of black-owned businesses to support
If you can’t patronize any restaurants, you can share their pages on social media or leave a review if you’ve been before.
Try to donate to bail funds and racial justice organizations where you can (after researching a few), but I recognize that we’re all students (myself included) and in the middle of a pandemic, and don’t necessarily have a lot of funds right now.
Here are more guides on how we can become good allies: