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Black Lives Matter: Living, Learning, and Unlearning into an AHRD Pandemic of Antiracism, Learning, and Change

AHRD Board of Directors

Recently, the AHRD Board unanimously approved and released a statement regarding the murder of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, and a commitment to actively engage as an organization in the necessary and overdue work of antiracism. We are proud of taking a strong antiracist stance, although we recognize that one statement is not enough to address centuries of racism and violence. Board members received a range of feedback on the statement. We want to take this moment to discuss one issue in particular: Rightful disappointment that the statement focused primarily on the present and immediate issues, without acknowledging instances of past racism within AHRD or presenting a concrete plan for future antiracist action.

The AHRD Board chooses to take this moment to state emphatically that systemic racism does not merely permeate our communities and society as a whole, it also infiltrates our AHRD community, despite the ongoing and developing commitment many of our members have to diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. The valuable feedback on AHRD’s initial statement correctly observed several of our Black colleagues have left AHRD due to microaggressions and overt racist statements and actions over the years. The Board wishes to issue a heartfelt apology for these transgressions. The fact that AHRD members have experienced racism within the AHRD community is unacceptable. Although AHRD cannot change the past, the Board is committed to work for an antiracist society and association and hopes members will join us.

AHRD’s Black Lives Matter statement is genuine and aspirational. The AHRD community, especially white folx, has much work ahead to ensure AHRD lives up to its Standards on Ethics and Integrity. Critical action begins with what Dr. Annelise Singh encouraged white attendees to do during her June 12, 2020 Facebook Live session on “Racial Healing”: Engage in self-introspection and intentionality to see your race and privilege, and see and believe the stories of your BIPOC colleagues. This deep reflective work includes a duty to honor the land each of us lives and works on, and to take mindful, meaningful antiracist action that creates real change. Becoming an antiracist AHRD involves a commitment to initiating dialogue and learning about racism, without expecting our Black colleagues to do it for us. Antiracist work must be ongoing and a process that AHRD needs to embrace fully if the AHRD community is to live into the racial healing advocated by Dr. Singh.

The AHRD Board is taking action and leading AHRD’s antiracism initiative, recognizing that remaining neutral or silent in the face of racism is white privilege. We are excited to announce the creation of an AHRD Antiracism Task Force that will amplify the recent focus on antiracism, inclusion and civility in the AHRD community and beyond, and help AHRD take a sustained and substantive approach to lead as an antiracist organization. The AHRD Antiracism Task Force members will be announced shortly. Some areas for key initiatives the Task Force might consider include:

  • AHRD Leadership
    • Creating a shadowing/mentoring program to develop future board members and AHRD leaders.
    • Engaging in ongoing assessment of antiracist progress.
    • Advocating policy that supports antiracist agendas.
    • Formalizing an ombudsperson process for complaints.
  • Research and Scholarly Practice
    • Amplifying antiracist scholarship and practice of AHRD members.
    • Conducting an action research project to promote anti-racism in AHRD research, teaching, and practice.
    • Incorporating antiracist education for proposal review committees.
    • Sponsoring a special journal issue on antiracist HRD.
  • Education, Training and Development
    • Sponsoring a virtual forums on race.
    • Providing antiracist resources and continuing education, especially with an HRD focus.
    • Curating a reading list for antiracist learning.
    • Creating an anti-racism certificate program. 
  • Outreach
    • Inviting former BIPOC members to re-engage with AHRD .
    • Waiving AHRD dues for a year to invite disaffected members to rejoin.
    • Writing a monthly column in the AHRD Digest devoted to the individual and collective work of antiracism.
  • Annual Conference
    • Continuing to focus on racism in the public sessions of the conference.
    • Incorporating antiracist education for award review committees.
    • Introducing antiracist education into the AHRD Ambassador training program.
  • Academic Programs
    • Decolonizing the HRD curriculum.
    • Engaging PEN on antiracist curricular issues.
    • Spotlighting exemplary courses that address diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We welcome your input and involvement and will issue regular updates on the work of the AHRD Antiracism Task Force.

AHRD member Dr. Marilyn Byrd (2018), recipient of the Laura Bierema Excellence in Critical HRD Award, observed, “The moral dilemma of the twenty-first century is confronting social injustices that relegate some individuals to a state of marginalization. The test is whether we choose to respond to the injustices that are endured with a mindset of promoting social justice and building strong human relations. This should be justification and motive enough for responding and taking action” (p. 9) AHRD is digging in to end racism, including racism which has persisted within AHRD itself. Engaging in conversation, learning, unlearning, and acting to end racism is difficult work, one that is never finished. As an AHRD community, and especially white members of that community, we must risk making mistakes, having misunderstandings, offending others, and changing our thoughts and actions if we are ever to advance HRD through antiracist research and practice. Let’s get to work.

Byrd, M. Y. (2018). Does HRD have a moral duty to respond to matters of social injustice?
Human Resource Development International, 21(1) 3-11,
DOI:10.1080/13678868.2017.1344419

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